Paternity is the determination of the identity of the father of a child from a legal standpoint. There are multiple methods that can be used to make such a determination and numerous misconceptions that people may have regarding the establishment and significance of paternity.
Paternity of a child can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. Voluntary methods of determining paternity include a child being born to a married couple, a child is born to an unmarried couple that later marries and signs legitimation papers or does not marry but voluntarily acknowledges paternity, or the couple decides to marry and the father places his name on the child's birth certificate. Involuntary establishment of paternity can be accomplished if a mother files a paternity action against the purported father. The man will then likely be ordered to undergo genetic testing to determine the accuracy of the mother's assertion.
Regardless of the method applied to establish paternity, such a determination has significant legal implications for all parties involved. The father will be required to provide financial support for the child in addition to gaining custody and visitation rights. Additionally, the mother must receive the father's consent to make certain decisions regarding the child. From the child's perspective, they gain support and inheritance rights from their father, as well as the right to bring a legal action for harm done to their father. They also gain access to health information regarding the father and his family, as well as potential workers' compensation and governmental benefits as applicable.
The determination of paternity has a significant impact on the lives of the father, mother and child alike, both from a personal and a legal perspective. The man that is determined to be the father is subject to certain financial obligations as a result but also gains numerous rights as well. A family law attorney can assist a father through the process of establishing paternity to ensure that their rights are protected.
Source: FindLaw.com, "Legal Significance of Paternity," last accessed Sep. 7, 2014