Typically, it is easy to determine whom the mother of a child is, which is why you don't often hear of establishing maternity. When a mother simply lists a man on the birth certificate, it does not necessarily mean that she has proved true paternity. Most people know that DNA testing verifies paternity, but other ways may establish it as well.
If you want to know who the legal or biological father of a child is, you will need to undergo the paternity process. When paternity is legally established, this does come with legal ramifications for mother, father and child. Ensuring that the child's needs are provided for is one possible reason for establishing paternity.
Voluntary versus involuntary paternity
There are two types of paternity actions, voluntary and involuntary. When a child is born to a married couple, or when a man voluntarily acknowledges responsibility for fathering the child through legal means, this also constitutes voluntary paternity. Another type of voluntary paternity occurs when a man welcomes a child into his home and a court grants him equitable parental custody rights.
If a man does not wish to acknowledge that he is the child's biological father, and denies the child, the courts may still deem him responsible. The mother or the state can request a paternity test. Usually, a DNA test, which is said to be 99 percent effective, establishes involuntary paternity.
What does establishing paternity mean for me?
Depending on your relationship to the father, an establishment of paternity can have different legal significance for you.
- If you are the father -- If you are the father, paternity establishes your responsibility for the child's support and care. You will be able to request custody of the child as the father, and you will be responsible for child support.
- If you are the mother -- If you are the mother of the child, you will be able to request financial support for the child. You may also have to share custody with the father or allow visitation. You and the father can make decisions regarding custody and support, or the courts make these decisions if you are unable to come to an agreement.
- If you are the child -- If you are the child, you will know the identity of your father. You will be able to access information about any known health risks for the father's bloodline. You will be eligible to receive financial support from your father, and you will have the right to see and visit with him. In the event of your father's premature death in an accident, you may be able to receive workers' compensation benefits (if the death occurred in a work-related accident) or have the right to sue for wrongful death.