There are many benefits to being a parent for everyone involved. Proving your parentage can be extremely beneficial especially to a child. Not only is it emotionally stabilizing for them to know who both of their parents are, but down the road it may also be valuable financially and medically, for reasons that you may not even be aware of at this time. For an adult to claim parentage, it is an emotionally charged event that will forever legally bind that person with the child. It can also show an unsurpassable amount of love for that child and grant you rights to that child that no one can revoke, so long as you take care of your responsibilities as well.
Responsibilities and Rewards
While children are not born with an instruction manual, there are certain responsibilities that the court bestows upon parents, that if they are not being cared for, parental rights may be revoked.
These responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- Care for, protect, and reasonably discipline the child
- Provide support: food, clothing, housing, education, health and dental care
- Manage a child’s money
- Financially support a child, at least through high school
With these responsibilities come many rewards, often in the form of right and privileges, including:
- Spending time with the child
- Decisions on education, residence, religious training, and legal matters
- Judgement on health and dental care, marriages, and military enlistments until a certain age
- The child may also inherit from you, know your medical history, get health insurance and life insurance as well as receive social security or veteran’s benefits if available
In order to obtain these rights and responsibilities, parentage must be proven. It may be automatically established at the birth of the child if both of the parents are married at the birth. This is also true for registered domestic partners. However, for an innumerable number of couples, parentage is something that will need to be established. Fortunately, there are a variety of options on how to prove that. The two most common options are:
- Signing a voluntary declaration of paternity
- Getting a court order
A voluntary declaration of paternity can be completed after the child is born. It is a form that is generally given to unmarried parents at the hospital before they leave. However, it can also be picked up at a local registrar’s office, child support offices, and court offices. The main legal concern with this form is it has to be done completely voluntarily. It cannot be forced upon anyone, otherwise later on it can be deemed a fraudulent document.
Getting a court order is the more tedious option. With this option, one parent has generally opened a case naming someone as the other parent, traditionally the mother naming a father. The court will then send this form to the presumed father, who may immediately accept. The other option is that they challenge the claim and file an answer to complaint, however this must be done within a certain deadline or else the court deems them the father and may require child support payments. This method may also require DNA testing. DNA is genetic material that both of the mother and father pass on to the child at conception. It can be found in all of the cells in the human body, and for that reason does not necessarily need to be done via blood sample.
No matter the route you choose to pursue, the establishing parentage may be one of the best decisions you will make for the child involved. Having a knowledgeable law attorney to walk you through the process will make an emotional situation much easier and less stressful. If you have a situation and would like to establish parentage or simply are curious and have further questions about the process contact a Bloomington family lawyer to schedule an initial consultation.
Thanks to Pioletti & Pioletti for their insight into family law and establishing paternity.