It is widely known that children do best when both of their parents are involved in their lives. While a mother cannot force a father to be engaged with their child, many dads do want to be involved even if the relationship between the mother and father has disintegrated. Whether you are a mother or a father, establishing paternity has many benefits for both you and your child. Read on to learn more about establishing paternity, why it’s important, and how to go about doing so.
What Is Establishing Paternity?
When a child is born to a married couple, it is assumed that the mother’s husband is the father. When the parents are not married, however, it is up to the parents to establish who the father of the child is. This can apply in any situation where the parents are not married. It might be that the parents are living together and in a relationship or that the parents do not intend to remain in a relationship.
Establishing paternity means that the father of the child declares his paternity and accepts his responsibility to pay child support, but it goes beyond that. There are benefits for mothers, fathers, and children when fathers establish their paternity.
Why Is It Good for Moms?
When a father establishes paternity, he is taking responsibility for paying child support. This benefits not only the child but also the mother. One of the leading causes of poverty is an absent father. If a mother cannot provide adequately for herself and her child, she might live in substandard housing, be unable to purchase healthy foods, and neglect her own health care needs. She is also likely to need to depend on social safety programs such as housing stipends, food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance. While child support is not to support the mother, it does relieve some of the burdens of paying for housing, food, and other needs that the child has.
Additionally, having an involved father in the child’s life will allow the mother to discuss child rearing topics with someone else who has the same vested interest in the child. Also, if she wants to go away for a weekend or needs to travel for work, the child might be able to stay with the father, which eases the burden of finding childcare at inconvenient times.
Why Is It Good for Dads?
Fathers benefit from knowing and having a relationship with their children. Sometimes fathers are afraid that their only contribution to raising their child is a child support check, but this is not the case. They can contribute greatly to their child’s upbringing by spending time with them and sharing in both physical and legal custody. Establishing paternity means that dads will be entitled to do these things. There may be tax benefits to establishing paternity and sharing custody of the child, too. Talk to a tax professional about that.
Why Is It Good for the Child?
Children benefit from having both parents in their lives. They tend to do better in school, tend to avoid the pitfalls of teenage pregnancy, and tend to do better as adults. By establishing paternity, a father can ensure that they are legally allowed to be there for their child, guiding them and teaching them.
Children whose fathers have established paternity also benefit financially. First, they receive child support, which will go to provide for their needs. In the event of their father’s death, they will also receive social security survivors’ benefits if paternity has been established. They can also receive an inheritance and veterans’ benefits, if applicable.
How Can I Establish Paternity?
There are a few different ways to establish paternity. If the baby has not yet been born, a father can attend the birth of the child and sign the declaration of paternity. This entitles his name to be placed on the birth certificate and from that point on, paternity is established and the father has an equal right to the child. If a couple is unmarried but still in a relationship, this is generally how paternity is established.
If the couple is no longer in a relationship, it is possible that the mother will not want the father at the child’s birth. Or if the child is already born and the aforementioned steps were not taken, there is still a way for the father to establish paternity. He can still sign an affidavit of paternity in the hospital or birthing center. If he is not able to go to the hospital, this affidavit can be signed at any time before the child turns 18.
Sometimes, a father does not wish to establish paternity. While the mother cannot force him to be an involved and caring father, she can force him to acknowledge his responsibility to pay child support and to be listed as the child’s father. Each state has an Office of Child Support Enforcement, which you can contact for help. They will have you sign an affidavit stating who the father is and they will help you locate the father. Once he is located, if he refuses to acknowledge paternity, he will be asked to submit to a genetic test to find out whether he is, in fact, the father. If he refuses, some states will then assume he is the father. If the test determines that he is the father, he will be listed as such and will be responsible for contributing financially to the child’s upbringing.
Unfortunately, in that case, the father may elect not to become involved in the raising or upbringing of the child, so he or she will not reap the benefits of having a relationship with his or her dad. The financial benefits will apply, however.
If you are having trouble establishing paternity, the legal advocates at National Family Solutions can help. Contact us to see whether we can help you obtain child support if you are a mother; we also help fathers assert their rights when it comes to participating in their child’s care and upbringing. Dads are important and we want to help!