It is a common (if somewhat stereotypical) concept that when a child is born, it is the mother who will have to seek the biological father out and legally pursue him into acknowledging paternity. However, this does a disservice to the millions of fathers who actively wish to be involved in their children’s lives, yet are discouraged or dissuaded from acknowledging paternity, or actively turned away from trying to claim a child as their own. If you want to be involved in your child’s life, but are facing resistance or problems, you do have options you can use to pursue the matter. A family lawyer can help.
What Are My Rights?
In theory, acknowledging the paternity of your child can be very easy. In many states, when the baby is born, you and the mother, if you are unmarried, will have the opportunity to complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form. While there are other opportunities to assert your paternity, this is by far the quickest and easiest method if the child’s mother allows you to sign the form.
However, it is extremely important to realize that completing this form does not entitle you to any legal custodial rights to the child, nor to any guaranteed parenting time. It establishes a parent-child relationship, but it does not establish legal paternity. The distinction is fine but important. It is possible to have a parent-child relationship without having legal custody or decision-making authority.
In order to establish legal paternity, an order must be entered with the relevant family court which addresses the question of custody, or an administrative proceeding must be completed with your state’s department of child and family services.
Generally, DNA testing will be part of any proceedings if parentage is truly in doubt, and it is always a good idea to ensure that you know the results before agreeing to anything.
If You Encounter Resistance
There are many reasons the mother of a child may not wish to acknowledge you as the child’s father or pursue testing to establish the fact – some understandable, some more malevolent. She may fear torpedoing a current relationship by acknowledging your paternity, or she may be embarrassed that she is unsure. Some women, however, try to seek child support from a child’s alleged father before legally establishing the relationship. In many states, you may wind up stuck in this situation if you do not contest such findings.
If you encounter resistance, but you reasonably believe that you are the child’s father and want to be involved in that child’s life, you are entitled to bring an action – in court or in an administrative proceeding – to settle the matter. Many men are under the mistaken presumption that only the mother may request adjudication of paternity, but this is not the case.
Contact a Family Law Firm
If you have questions about paternity – whether you are seeking to have your paternity for a child established or you believe you are not the biological father of a child – you need a skilled family lawyer representing you. Contact an experienced attorney, like a Des Moines, IA family lawyer from the Law Group of Iowa.