Paternity and legal acknowledgment of the relationship between a father and a child is an important factor in determining child custody, visitation and child support for unmarried parents. Whether you are a mother who seeks confirmation for your child’s father, or a man trying to establish parental rights over your children, it is essential to have a lawyer who will fight for you.

Parental Support

One of the hardest parts of a divorce for all involved is determining custody for any children of the union. If there are questions of paternity, that process can be complicated even more. Generally, children conceived or born during a marriage are legally presumed to be children of the husband. For any child conceived/born outside of marriage, the father’s name on the birth certificate does not automatically grant him rights to time with the child, but it also means that the father may not be obligated to provide financial support. Determining paternity can play a role in deciding custody during a divorce, though the primary question will be what is in the child’s best interest. Sometimes, if questioning paternity could be harmful to the child, the decision will be made to avoid or legally prevent paternity testing. Ultimately, however, determining paternity may be the initial step in seeking child support for a single mother. If you are a single mother and are wanting to know who your child’s father is, you can petition the Child Support Enforcement Agency to order a DNA paternity test. Once the father’s identity is confirmed, you will be able to seek child support.

Establishing paternity can help single mothers seek child support or other financial assistance from the father, if they are not married. It can also play a role in inheritance, primarily in cases of children attempting to establish paternity for a recently deceased person. Of course, this is generally a complex undertaking, as there are a range of different rules and restrictions about attempting to establish oneself as an heir after the parent in question has died. 

Paternity Testing

DNA testing is the most common method for establishing paternity legally, but sworn testimony and other evidence may also come into play when the decision is being made. Single mothers can seek paternity testing as the first step in trying to get financial assistance from a child’s father, especially in cases that the paternity of the child is in question. It can also be a way of seeking inheritance rights. Financial matters aside, paternity testing can also play a key role in visitation rights and custody.

If a child is conceived and/or born out of wedlock, the father’s name on the birth certificate does not automatically grant him parental rights. Requesting paternity testing can be a way for fathers to prove a connection to the child and, if it is in the child’s best interest, give him rights for visitation or custody. For fathers who would like to have an active role in their child’s life, going through the paternity testing process can provide a legal means of doing so. A father’s name on a birth certificate doesn’t entitle him to child custody and visitation rights if he is not married to the mother. If you are a father who is trying to fight for a role in your child’s life, getting a paternity test can give you the legal standing that you need.

Don’t do this alone. Let our family law team help you muddle through this legal process.

Step-Parent Adoption

Paternity testing is not the only way to take a more active role in a child’s life. Step-parents who step in and take a strong parental role in a child’s life may want to consider step-parent adoption. This process is often an option when the biological parent is not active in the child’s life and wishes to waive parental rights. It can also be helpful, but not necessary, for families moving out of the state or out of the country who are looking to simplify handling legal matters for the children. If living, both biological parents will need to agree to the adoption — with some extenuating circumstances in which the court will proceed through the adoption process without one parent’s agreement.

Bobbie has counseled clients through the process of step-parent adoption, where one spouse adopts the other spouse’s child or children. Adoptions occur in the Probate Court rather than the Domestic Relations Court, and Bobbie is experienced with the steps that are necessary to help people expand their families through this significant and life-changing event.