Nothing is more important than your relationship with your child. It’s important to protect that relationship by establishing legal paternity. Getting a court order of paternity can set up child custody and visitation rights in addition to your child support obligation.
In North Carolina, there are three ways to establish legal paternity:
- If you were married to the child’s mother when your child was born, you are presumed to be legally the father of the child. You do not have to do anything to establish legal paternity.
- If you were not married to the child’s mother at the time of birth but know you are the father, you can establish your paternity by signing an affidavit of parentage. This will set the child support process in motion but won’t give you custody and visitation rights.
- Regardless of your marital state at the time of birth, if you are biologically the child’s father you can generally get an order of paternity after a court action. You may be required to have a DNA test to prove that you are the father.
Do you want parental rights?
If you would like decision-making authority over and visitation with your child, you will need to get a court order of paternity. This involves a trial, although it need not be adversarial. If your child’s mother agrees that you are the father, the trial can be easy. It just involves proving, by DNA test, that you are the child’s father.
Once your paternity is established through genetic testing, you will have all the same rights, duties and obligations of any other parent.
That includes, for example:
- The right to parent your child
- The right to make important decisions about your child, such as those involving education, medical care and religious instruction
- Automatic inheritance rights for your child
- Eligibility as a dependent for certain benefits, including Social Security disability
- The obligation to support your child financially, including paying pregnancy and birth-related medical bills
Getting a child custody and visitation order in place now can save you a great deal of trouble later. It gives you important legal rights, such as the right to pick your child up from school or take them to a doctor. If you and your children’s mother disagree about how to raise the child or how much time you should get to spend with the child, your child custody and visitation order is enforceable.
Are you ready to take on all the responsibilities of fatherhood? Great! Talk to an experienced attorney today.