It’s kind of a scary-sounding word, but it shouldn’t be. All paternity really means is fatherhood, or the state of being a father.
Establishing paternity is how the father of a child comes to be legally identified as such. Married fathers are automatically legally considered to be the fathers of their children. However, as any family lawyer can tell you, unmarried fathers have no legal parental rights until the paternity acknowledgment process is complete.
So, why might a child’s biological father want to go through this process of establishing paternity?
When we hear about “paternity,” it’s often in a negative way. As in, a mother is trying to establish paternity so she can get a deadbeat father to pay child support.
But paternity itself is not a negative thing. In fact, there are all kinds of good reasons for men to establish paternity over their children.
You Get to Put Your Name on Your Child’s Birth Certificate
This may be more of a big deal to some than others, but without paternity, your name stays off. Can you imagine your child coming across their birth certificate in the future and seeing that no one is listed as their father? It’s as if you don’t even exist.
You Can Get Visitation Rights
There’s a little version of you out there. But unless you establish paternity, you have no legal right to spend time with your child and watch them grow and develop.
After proving paternity, you can petition for this time and work out a schedule with your ex.
You Can Fight for Custody
Our society is predisposed to think that mothers – especially biological mothers – should have custody of their children, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes they just aren’t fit to be raising a kid for one reason or another, and your child is suffering because of it.
If you establish paternity, you can fight to gain custody of your kid and get them out of a bad situation. Without paternity, though, you have no rights. If child protection workers remove the children from under their mother’s care for one reason or the other, they’ll be placed with other relatives or the care of the state.
You Get a Voice in the Big Decisions of Your Child’s Life
What kind of decisions? Medical decisions. Choices regarding education and schooling. In short, many of the things that will shape your child’s life.
You Can Keep Your Kids Close
Imagine the mother of your children gets a job offer out of state or simply decides to move away. If you have not established paternity, she will be able to do this no matter how you feel about it.
However, if you are legally established as their father, you get a say in the matter and have a number of legal ways to prevent the move.
You Can Help Your Kids Have a Better Life
Earlier we mentioned child support, and how it’s often positioned as a negative thing for fathers. After all, you’re forced to send money to your ex. Who wants that?
Except that’s not what’s happening. You’re providing money for your children. And if you believe your ex is misusing the support, there are ways to deal with that, too.
Moreover, you can help your children in other ways, such as being able to put them on your health insurance.
Of course, while establishing paternity comes with a host of benefits for all parties involved, it can at times trigger various complex legal issues. Connecting with a family law attorney can help you navigate this process so that it goes as smoothly as possible.