Establishing paternity

Establishing paternity is the legal term for determining the father of the child. If the parents were married when the child was born, the husband is the legal father noted on the child’s birth certificate.  To create the same legal relationship between unmarried parents and their children, paternity must be established. It’s an important step in ensuring that both parents support their child, and is the first step in collecting child support.

If the parents were not married, legal paternity must be established. This is important for:

  • Creating a support order for the child.
  • Obtaining health insurance, if it is available through an employer.
  • Protecting the child’s rights to benefits if the father dies, such as money or property left in a will, veteran’s benefits or Social Security benefits.
  • Ensuring a link to the child’s past. Just the knowledge of the father’s name and of his medical history can help the child in years to come.

When a father agrees that the child is his, he signs a document for “voluntary acknowledgement.” When he doesn’t agree, the program will help him take steps, including genetic testing, to establish whether or not he is the father.