• Establishing paternity post-divorce guarantees child support, access to health records, and inheritance rights.
  • Paternity impacts a child’s sense of identity, offering emotional and psychological benefits.
  • Voluntary acknowledgment and DNA testing are common methods for establishing paternity.
  • Seeking guidance from a father’s rights attorney who is also experienced in family law can help navigate the complex legal process.

When a couple decides to divorce, the process can be challenging and overwhelming, especially if they have children. One of the critical issues that arise is the establishment of paternity. Paternity refers to the legal identification of a child’s biological father. In many cases, establishing paternity is necessary for various reasons. This blog discusses why and how to do it after divorce.

Why Is Establishing Paternity Important?

Establishing paternity has several benefits, especially after a divorce. For instance, when paternity is established, the father can be required to provide child support payments. This can help the custodial parent support the child and cover expenses like education, healthcare, clothing, and food. Here are some other reasons:

Access to Health Records

When paternity is legally established, the child gains access to the father’s medical history. This can be critical in predicting and managing potential health issues that may arise in the future. Genetic conditions, hereditary diseases, or even allergies can be better understood and preempted with this knowledge.

Inheritance Rights

Inheritance rights are another crucial aspect of establishing paternity. Unless the father has legally recognized the child, the child may not be eligible to inherit property or other assets from their father’s estate. This legal recognition also ensures the child’s right to survivor benefits, such as Social Security or life insurance.

Identity Purposes

The emotional and psychological benefits of establishing paternity should not be underestimated. Knowing one’s biological father can be invaluable for a child’s sense of identity and self-esteem. This knowledge also helps to build a clearer image of their family tree, providing a sense of belonging and continuity.

father spending time with his son playing with model home

How To Establish Paternity After Divorce

Establishing paternity after a divorce can be a complex and intricate process. It involves determining the legal father of a child and can have significant implications for both the child and the parents involved. Fortunately, there are several steps that can be taken to ensure that this process is carried out accurately and effectively. Here are the two most common ways:

Voluntary Acknowledgment:

This process involves both parents signing a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Form” to establish legal paternity. The form, which is available at the hospital, local health department offices, or the child support enforcement agency, serves as an official recognition of the father’s parental rights and responsibilities. In cases where the father is unable to be present at the hospital during childbirth to sign the form, it can be completed at a later time, ensuring that proper legal documentation is in place.

DNA Testing:

In cases where paternity is disputed or unknown, DNA testing can be performed to establish the biological father’s identity with a high level of accuracy. This involves a simple and non-invasive process of taking a cheek swab from the potential father, the child, and the mother and comparing their unique DNA profiles. By analyzing specific markers in their genetic makeup, the test can determine the likelihood of biological relatedness, providing valuable information and peace of mind to those involved in such situations.

father doing a cheek swab for DNA testing

Legal Steps to Establish Paternity

Once paternity is established, the next step is to obtain a court order. This requires filing a petition with the family court that has jurisdiction over the child’s residence.

The petition should include the child’s and both parents’ names, birth dates, and current residence. After filing the petition, a hearing is scheduled with the court. During the hearing, both parents can testify, and a judge will make a ruling. Once the court order is issued, it is legally binding, and both parents must comply with its terms.

Partnering with an experienced father’s rights attorney is essential to ensure a favorable outcome. They can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights. They can also help you prepare and file proper documents with the court, represent you during court hearings, and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

Establishing paternity is crucial after a divorce. It helps secure child support payments, access to health records, and inheritance rights and provides the child with a sense of identity. The most common ways of establishing paternity are voluntary acknowledgment and DNA testing. Both parents can hire a family lawyer to guide them through the process and protect their rights.

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