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Unmarried father? Know the legal significance of paternity

If you and your significant are not married and the two of you have a child together, you should understand the importance of establishing paternity. Simply being listed on the birth certificate is not enough to secure your parental rights if things end between the two of you. Even if you plan to stay together forever, the future is always uncertain.

Establishing paternity can be a complicated process. A local Twin Cities attorney experienced with family law can help you secure your legal rights as a father. Read further for an overview of the legal significance of paternity.

Voluntary paternity

A father can voluntarily assume paternity in a variety of ways -- for example, if you are married when the child is born or if you get married after the birth and sign a legitimation form. If you decide not to marry, you can sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or a similar document. Your attorney can draft these documents for you.

You can also voluntarily assume custody if you and the mother marry after the birth of your child, you agree to put your name on the birth certificate, and you agree to provide support for the child. Another option is to welcome the child into your home and publicly acknowledge him or her. If you and the child develop a close parent/child bond, the court may grant you equitable parent custody rights if you and the mother separate.

If you do not acknowledge your child in one of the above-mentioned ways, you risk losing your parental rights to another man that proclaims to be the child's father.

Paternity lawsuit

If the mother files a lawsuit against you, it can establish paternity. This is often referred to as involuntary paternity. You will have to appear in court and take a DNA test. A blood test can establish you as the father of the child with 99 percent accuracy. If the test proves you are the father, the court will require you to provide support for the child.

Legal significance

Once you have legally established yourself as the father, voluntarily or involuntarily, you will owe your share of support and responsibility of your child. If you choose not to provide support, a court order can compel you to do so. On the other side of things, if the mother chooses to give the child up for adoption, she cannot do so without your consent. You will also be entitled to visitation and custody rights.

With regard to the child, once you or the court has established paternity, he or she has the right to receive certain benefits from you. For example, the child will have the right to support and shelter, the right to inherit, and the right to know of any hereditary health risks that originate from your side.

Establishing paternity is an important process for both you and the child. Protect your parental rights by ensuring the law sees you as the legal father.

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