When the biological parents of a child(ren) are not married at the time of a child(ren)’s birth, then either parent can file an action in court to establish parentage.
Why does it matter?
Establishing parentage through the Court is a process of determining who the legal parents are of a child, and either parent may file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship.
When a parent is the legal parent of a child, that parent may be entitled to custody and visitation with the child. Likewise, when a parent is the legal parent of a child, that party is also financial responsible for the child.
If you and the child’s mother were not married at the time of the birth, and you did not sign a Voluntary Declaration for Paternity, then you are not the legal parent of the child. Without establishing a parental relationship with the child, you do not have the legal right to see the child, or make decisions about the child’s health, safety, and welfare.
If you are the legal parent of a child, you have certain rights and responsibilities with regard to the child. You may ask the court to determine your legal and physical custody rights. The other parent may demand that you pay child support. Court orders for custody and child support can are made after a court establishes the parentage of the child.
You may want to seek the assistance of counsel if:
- You are the mother of the child and the father does not want to pay child support
- You are the father of the child and the mother is refusing to allow you to visit with your child or is making decisions without consulting with you
- It is unclear who the biological father is. If there is a dispute about parentage, then the court can order genetic testing to determine who the biological parents are.
Generally speaking, if a child is born to a mother who is married, the law usually considers the husband to be the father. However, the husband may not always be the biological father of the child. If this describes your situation, then you must consult with an attorney immediately. Otherwise you may be barred from contesting your status as that child’s legal parent in the future. If you and your spouse get a divorce in the future, you will be required to pay child support for all children you are the legal parent of.