If a father was married to the mother of a child at the time the child was conceived or born, it is generally assumed that he is the biological father, and additional proof is not required unless this assumption is brought into question. Paternity may also be presumed if the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate or if the father has been raising the child as his own for several years.
In cases where unmarried couples have a child, the father’s paternity should be established immediately to protect all parties in the event of dissolution of the parental relationship. Biological parents are legally responsible for a child’s support whether they are married or not. The parents’ rights and responsibilities regarding their children are the same regardless of whether they have ever married.
The most common way of establishing paternity is by naming the father on the baby’s birth certificate. All states offer parents the opportunity to voluntarily establish paternity either at the hospital or by signing a certificate of paternity at a later date if the father is not present at the birth.
In cases where a father is not willing to voluntarily sign a certificate of paternity, the state or the mother can go to court to establish that he is the father in order to enforce child support rules. Once paternity is established, the father can also seek parenting time with the child. The amount and nature of the parenting time that will be awarded will depend upon many factors , all of which are rooted in the best interests of the child.
A father does not lose his right to be involved in his child’s life just because the mother tries to keep the child from him. If the mother prevents the father from having contact with their child, the father can seek assistance from the legal system to enforce his rights and establish a relationship with the child. If a mother fails to tell a father of the birth of their child, the father may still seek a relationship with that child once he learns about the birth.