What is the Chronology for Establishing Paternity?
When a child is born to a married couple, a legal presumption arises that the husband is the child’s father. The same is not true for unmarried couples. Establishing paternity is important for unmarried couples in the event that their relationship does not continue and a parent seeks custody or child support, for inheritance purposes or for a variety of other reasons.
If the parents marry after the mother becomes pregnant but before the birth, the husband’s paternity is presumed in the same manner as if the parents were married at the time of conception. If the parents marry after the child is born, they can sign a legitimation form, which grants the same rights as if the parents were married at the time of birth.
Even if parents never marry, paternity can be established voluntarily when the parents are certain of the father’s identity. In such cases, the mother and father may sign a legal form called a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and file the form with the court or appropriate state agency. Executing this voluntary acknowledgment may be done in the hospital following the child’s birth or any time thereafter.
The father’s name is then included on the child’s birth certificate. Even if a voluntary acknowledgment is not completed soon after the child’s birth, the parties may later enter into an agreement with the assistance of their lawyers that establishes the father’s identity and resolves custody and support issues.