Establishing paternity means obtaining a legal order identifying the father of the child. There are many reasons to establish paternity. Even if children don't know both of their parents, they know that everyone has a mother and a father. Establishing paternity can help provide your child with a sense of identity. Paternity should be established for your child immediately after the child is born. As time passes, the father may be harder to find or less likely to admit paternity.
Paternity must be established in order to:
- Get a support order for your child
- Get private health insurance for your child, if it is available to the father
- Protect your child's rights to survivor's benefits, such as Veterans Benefits, Social Security benefits, Military Allowance, Workman's Compensation and inheritance
In addition, having paternity established may also:
- Provide a legal record of identity of the child's parents
- Allow the father's name to be entered on the birth certificate
- Provide emotional benefits to the child by knowing the identity of both parents
Paternity can be established in two ways:
- A father can acknowledge paternity voluntarily if both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form which can be obtained at the hospital at the time the child is born, or at the Office of Child Support Enforcement. This is a document which legally establishes paternity without the need to go to court.
- A paternity petition filed with the Family Court asks the court to determine if a particular man is the child's father. If at the paternity hearing the alleged father continues to deny paternity, the hearing examiner will order genetic marker tests that will help determine paternity.