When a child is born in wedlock, it is automatically assumed that the couple is the child’s parents. When the parents are unwed though, fathers have to take extra steps to establish paternity and exert their parenting rights.
Fathers who are not married when their child is born have to establish legal paternity. In some instances, this could be as straightforward as signing a form acknowledging paternity. In others, it might require a court order and a DNA test.
Why is establishing paternity important?
Regardless of how the parents relationship is with one another, their relationship with their child should flourish. Having both parents play a stable role in a child’s life significantly affects their emotional and psychological development.
Even where the father does not plan on playing a significant physical role in their child’s upbringing, they can support their child financially. Raising a child is expensive, and the biological father can contribute financially to ease the monetary burden on the primary caregiver. Without establishing paternity, it is not possible to demand child support payments from an unmarried father.
Parents can negotiate a parenting plan covering the way they will parent their child. This can include child custody arrangements and decision making procedures. For example, who will make decisions regarding education, health, schooling and religion? And how can this procedure be changed? These are issues that should be addressed in a parenting plan. If parents can create one on their own without court intervention, they can ensure that their schedules and wishes are considered.
When parents are unable to come to a decision as to the legal and physical custody of their children, the court has to make this decision for them, based on the child’s best interests. In these situations, the courts will take into account a number of factors and parents can introduce evidence to sway the decision. Experienced attorneys can help each side present their best case.