When a child is born to a married couple, there is an automatic presumption that the couple are both the biological and legal parents of that child, which means there is no need to go through any extra steps to formally establish paternity. However, if a child is not born to a married couple, establishing paternity becomes a necessity.
While a biological paternity test can be a good option for establishing paternity and legitimation in certain circumstances, there are other ways to determine the rights of mothers and fathers. For example, if a couple marries after having a child, then paternity can be established retroactively with consent from both spouses. For unmarried parents, the situation can be more complicated, since fatherhood is not presumed and the father is at risk of losing his paternal rights and responsibilities, including visitation.
Affidavit of Parentage.
The easiest way for unmarried parents to establish paternity over a child is by signing an “affidavit of parentage.” This can be done immediately after their child is born, or it can be done retroactively. Either way, this affidavit serves as a legally binding declaration of parentage that can be exceptionally difficult to change afterwards, so it is generally wise for prospective fathers preparing to sign this kind of affidavit to get at least basic DNA testing done first, just to confirm their link to the child.
The last option, as previously mentioned, is a paternity action brought before a judge, which is generally only necessary if a child’s alleged father does not wish to be declared or does not believe they are that child’s biological parent. If the judge orders paternity testing as part of a paternity action, a result of 97 percent probability or greater that the alleged father is biologically related to the child is sufficient for the court to establish paternity and, at the same time, potentially establish financial obligations and custody rights.