Being a biological father doesn’t necessarily mean you are a legal father. The government requires you to officially declare our parenthood. You can do this by signing the birth certificate or filing paperwork later. The legal term for fatherhood is “paternity.”
If you wait too long, or if you discover a child later in life, you must officially declare your fatherhood. You may need to go through the court system. This will be the case if the other parent is unwilling to let you be involved with the child or if the child already has a legal father. This may require DNA evidence, and you must make a case for your inclusion in the child’s life.
Men sometimes question whether filing for paternity is necessary. Perhaps they have a good relationship with the mother, and they see no reason to go through the legal hurdles.
The truth is this: You have no idea what the future holds. There could be a falling out between you and the mother. If you don’t secure your fathers’ rights, you are vulnerable. The mother could block you from seeing your child, creating even more legal woes.
Paternity is also about more than just seeing your children. Here are some other benefits to securing your legal fatherhood.
Paternity Grants the Right to Custody and Visitation
As the legal father, you have the right to request custody or visitation. The degree to which you can see your children depends on your parenting plan. It may not be possible to maintain joint custody, even to a small degree. In that case, you can plead for visitation rights.
The difference is this:
- Custody is having the children for an extended period. During that time, you are responsible for their safety, nourishment, hygiene, and so forth. Even if you keep the kids infrequently, such as only one weekend a month, this is considered joint custody.
- Visitation is a specified day and time to see the kids. It determines when, where, and how long you will be with them. You can spend visitation with them alone, but you must return them when the time is up. Electronic visits are just as valid as physical ones. You can schedule time for phone calls, video chats, and so on.
Paternity Allows Inclusion in Your Benefits
As the legal father, you can put your kids on your insurance plan. There are also many benefits available to the children of military members. If you pass without a will, your children automatically receive a portion of your estate.
Paternity Can Have Emotional Advantages
Some people disregard legal officialness. They may think, for instance, that marriage is unnecessary, and they prefer to live with their partner without governmental involvement.
Many more people still enjoy the comfort that legal soundness can bring. Even if you are already close to your children, there is a certain magic to making it official. You and your child will know that, in everyone’s eyes, you are the father, and nothing will take that away.
Paternity is Permanent
Once someone is a legal parent, they remain so for life.
The only way to lose your rights is:
- If you willingly sign them over.
- If the court deems you an unfit parent. Chances are, if you care enough to establish paternity, this will never apply to you.
Our firm is here to help with any parental rights issues, whether they be for the mother or the father. If you need help, contact us today by calling (515) 200-7571 or filling out our online form.