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The concept of the traditional family has been undergoing an evolution for decades, and the trend of children born to unmarried parents is an example. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 41% of babies in Maryland are born to single mothers, continuing a gradual rise that started at 37.1% in 2005. Under these circumstances, the paternity of the child is unsettled from a legal standpoint. Parentage is presumed when the parents are married, but additional steps are required to establish paternity when they are not.
The process for proving paternity is described below, and it can be accomplished either by agreement or legal action. However, before getting to the details, you should fully grasp the reasons why you would want to move forward. Parentage encompasses rights and responsibilities, so consulting with a Baltimore County paternity lawyer is critical. A few points on what it means to establish parentage should be helpful.
Legal Paternity for Fathers
The motivation behind many fathers who seek to legally prove parentage is the desire to play a role in the child’s life. Even if the mother allows him to spend time and develop a relationship with the child, the father:
- Does not have any rights regarding child custody, which refers to the important decisions parents make when raising the child; and,
- Does not have the right to exercise visitation and parenting time.
In addition, paternity also enables the child to take advantage of certain benefits that come through the father, such as Social Security, workers’ compensation, and inheritances.
What Parentage Means for Mothers
The cost of raising a child is considerable, and the financial responsibility falls on both parents. A mother might seek to legally establish paternity in order to have the law recognize the father’s child support obligation. Plus, part of a child support order could include putting the child on the father’s health insurance, another factor that benefits the child.
Note that proving paternity could lead to changes in the custody arrangement. The mother might have been enjoying sole custody. A court could order joint custody to give the father the right to participate in decision-making. He can also seek visitation rights.
Options for Establishing Paternity
If the parents agree on the father’s identity, they can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) – even while at the hospital after the baby’s birth. When there are disputes, either the mother or father can file a paternity action in court. In these cases, DNA evidence is used to determine the father.
Contact a Maryland Paternity Attorney to Learn More
As you can see, there are valid reasons that both parents would want to legally establish parentage. Regardless of which route you take, it is wise to retain knowledgeable counsel for help with the VAP and/or a paternity lawsuit. The Law Office of William F. Mulroney is prepared to support your needs, so please call (443) 352-8433 or go online to schedule a free consultation with a lawyer today.