When do you need to establish paternity?
When a mother is married, her husband is automatically considered the legal father of children born during that marriage.
However, if a mother and father are not married when the mother becomes pregnant, then paternity can be established by the Department once the child is born.
How do you establish paternity?
Paternity can be established by:
- Both parents signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity ("AOP") (PDF), or
- An order of a District Court declaring a man the legal father of a child (this step may involve genetic testing).
The Rights of a Child
Establishing paternity is important because each parent is important to a child's emotional and physical well-being, and every child has the right to financial and emotional support from both parents. This support can include:
- Identity: A child has the right to know and have a relationship with his or her mother and father.
- Family ties: A child has a right to know his or her family history. This includes knowing all grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Extended families provide a sense of belonging for a child.
- Money: A child needs the financial support of both parents. Children who are supported by only one parent often do not have their basic needs met. The likelihood that adequate food, clothes, shelter and medical care will be provided for a child increases when both parents provide financial support.
- Health: A child's healthy development may depend upon medical and genetic information from both parents. Health problems can often appear later in a child's life. Access to parents' medical history may save or improve the quality of a child's or grown child's life.
- Other Benefits: A child has a right to benefits from both parents. These can include: social security dependent benefits, pensions, inheritance rights, health insurance, life insurance, veterans' and other government benefits.