For a happy couple, a positive pregnancy test brings bouts of joy and happy expectations. Establishing legal paternity at this time is rarely a concern. Circumstances of life, however, might later bring paternity questions to light. So, understanding the various ways you become a father legally is crucial.
1. DNA Paternity Testing
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, testing establishes near perfect certainty that you're the biological parent of a child. If you're just curious, you can use a home DNA test kit to check paternity. For legal purposes, however, you'll need to use a DNA testing center recognized by the courts in your state. Accurate DNA testing can occur as early as nine weeks into the pregnancy and any time after a child's birth.
2. Acknowledgement of Paternity
When a child is born to unmarried parents, there is no legal father. So, some parents may choose to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. This form doesn't prove that you're the biological parent, but it establishes that you're the legal father of the child. As such, when you, the child's mother, and your witnesses sign the form, you acknowledge that you are legally responsible for the child and entitled to all the benefits of a father.
3. Presumption of Paternity
You can become the child's legal father without taking a paternity test or signing an acknowledgement form. If you were married to the mother when the child was born, the courts presume that you're the father. In some states, if you're divorced from the mother, the courts might presume you're the father if you were married to the mother within a certain period before the child's birth. Other instances where the courts might presume you're the father include the following:
- You listed your name on the child's birth certificate
- You gave written promise to support the child
- You lived with the child and presented yourself as the biological father
4. Court-Ordered Paternity
Court-ordered paternity often result from a paternity suit. For example, if you believe you're the father of a child and the mother denies you access to the child, you can take the matter to court. Conversely, the mother might take you to court if she believes you are the father and thus demands financial and medical support for the child. Court-ordered paternity might also result from divorce proceedings.
Talk with a family law attorney today to get a clear understanding of the legal implications of establishing paternity and becoming a father -- legally.