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Many people assume that parental rights and obligations depend upon whether they were married when the child was born, but the exact opposite is true: Maryland family law statute clearly states that parents of a minor are responsible for support, care, guidance, and education; it goes on to provide that each parent has the same powers with respect to raising the child. The confusion enters the picture when it comes to how these rights and responsibilities arise. In short, the key is establishing paternity, which refers to the legal, official recognition of the child’s father.
There are multiple ways to prove paternity, which also goes by the term parentage. Contrary to common perception, these cases are not just a way of going after a father for child support – though this is certainly a solid strategy under the right circumstances. Both parents and the child have an interest in establishing parentage for a number of reasons. While you should trust an Owings Mills, MD paternity attorney for assistance with the process, it is useful to know how the process works.
Three Methods for Establishing Parentage in Maryland
The options available to you will depend upon your unique circumstances, but you may qualify to establish paternity by:
- Marital Presumption: When parents are married at the time of conception or birth, there is a legal presumption that the child is their offspring. Presumptions are rebuttable, so paternity can be disproved by evidence to the contrary – such as DNA revealing a different father.
- Affidavit of Parentage: Unmarried parents can agree upon paternity, and parentage will be established if they both sign this document. Note that you must also send the signed Affidavit of Parentage to the Division of Vital Records in Baltimore.
- Paternity Case: Either parent can petition the court to have a judge determine parentage, though the government may also initiate proceedings for purposes of child support. A paternity lawsuit is similar to a trial, and the most important evidence in the case will be DNA. The test results must reveal paternity of at least 97.3% likelihood.
What Paternity Means for Both Parents
When you legally establish parentage, the child support obligation will arise. This is good news for mothers who seek financial contribution from the father for raising the child. But keep in mind that parental rights come with proving paternity. The father has standing to seek child custody and/or visitation, and this is exactly why many file a petition for a paternity case themselves.
Child custody and visitation issues are determined in accordance with Maryland’s child’s best interests standard. Generally, courts prefer a co-parenting arrangement, recognizing that the child’s interests are served by having a relationship with both parents.
A Baltimore County Paternity Lawyer Can Assist with Paternity Matters
To learn more about ways to establish parentage in Maryland, please contact the Law Office of William F. Mulroney at (443) 352-8433 or via our website. We can set up a free consultation to assess your situation and determine the best way to proceed.