When you have paternity over a child, that’s legal standing as a child’s father. Until paternity is established, you don’t actually have any legal rights over your child – which means (among other things) that you have no authority over how they are raised and no custody or visitation rights, either.
But, just how is paternity established? Here are some answers to your questions that may help:
You may have presumptive paternity
Presumptive paternity means that the law assumes that you are the child’s natural father whenever any of the following is true:
- You were married to the child’s other parent (regardless of either party’s sex) at the time of the child’s birth.
- You were married to the child’s other parent before the child’s birth, and the child is born no more than 300 days after the marriage’s end.
- You married the child’s other parent sometime after the child’s birth and either asserted your parentage in writing with the health department and/or agreed to be named on the child’s birth certificate as their parent.
It should be noted that presumptive paternity can sometimes be rebutted through court action, but only when there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the true paternity lies with another. This sometimes comes up, for example, when a couple has long been separated but never legally divorced.
You have other options to establish paternity
If none of the presumptive paternity conditions apply, you can still seek paternity through other methods. As long as your child’s other parent agrees and there is no presumptive father or anybody else seeking paternity rights, a “Voluntary Establishment of Paternity,” once properly executed and filed, will give you all of the rights and obligations due you as the child’s father.
You can also seek to establish paternity through a legal action in family court. This might be necessary if your child’s other parent is reluctant to let you establish paternity or there are questions about your paternity. Typically, genetic testing will be used to establish actual paternity in those situations.
If you’re unsure about your paternal rights, the wisest thing you can do to protect your precious parent-child relationship is to seek legal guidance.