When an unmarried couple has a child, the child’s father isn’t automatically the legal “father” by law. To ensure you have a legal relationship with your child as a parent, you have to establish paternity. Here is a look at how this can be beneficial to you and your child.
Parenting Time Allocation
You will not automatically have visitation rights or child custody in Santa Fe or other parts of the state simply because you say you are the child’s father. This is especially true if you have never lived with the child’s mother. To get these rights, you have to establish paternity in court.
You should have paternity established even if you already visit with your child and are on good terms with the child’s mother. Things can change in a heartbeat. The mother may decide she wants to move far away with the child in the future, for example, or she may decide to stop any visits with you.
When you have parenting time that has been approved by the court, you have more options in these situations. It may mean, for example, that the mother cannot relocate with your child without your consent or a court order allowing it. If the mother prevents you from seeing your child, you can go to court to have your right to see your child enforced as long as you have paternity established and parenting time set.
Child Support Enforcement
If you are the mother and custodial parent of your child, you will likely need to establish paternity if you want to receive child support. If the other parent is refusing to pay any support or only pays sporadically, for example, you cannot get a court order for more consistent payment enforcement until you have established paternity.
For a father who is the noncustodial parent, you may need to establish paternity so the other parent accepts child support and there is a record of payments set. A parent who is refusing support from you now may decide they want it later, and at that time, you may be responsible for payments all the way back to the child’s birth. To avoid being in such a situation, it’s best to establish paternity and get child support set up by the court as soon as you can. This way, you can show the court proof you have been paying as ordered, even if the other parent claims you are not paying.
Rights of Inheritance
Children have some rights to the property of a parent if that parent passes away. To help ensure your child inherits their fair share of your estate should you pass away, it’s best to establish that they are your child in the eyes of the law. Even if you list your child as your child in your will and leave them something, any other heirs of your estate could contest it if you never had the child’s paternity established. Estate contests are stressful for your loved ones and can also drain your estate due to the legal fees involved, leaving less behind for your children and other relatives.
Establish your child’s paternity as soon as you can so you are not caught off guard in the future. You never know when you may need to show proof that you are the legal parent of your child and have rights as a parent. If you need to establish the paternity of your child, speak to an experienced family law attorney about getting the process started. Your attorney can also help you with custody and support matters.