How to Establish
Paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity refers to the legal identification of the father of
the child. Only the two biological parents may establish paternity
for a child. Unmarried parents must establish paternity in order for
the father to be recognized under the law as a legal parent. Without
establishing paternity, the law does not give the father any rights or
responsibilities to the child. By legally establishing paternity,
the child becomes entitled to all of the same benefits as a child born to
There are two ways for
unmarried parents to establish paternity:
1. Signing a voluntary form
called Acknowledgment of Paternity
hospitals, local district child support offices, and local birth
2. Filing a court petition
to have the court determine paternity
*If you are not sure that you
are the father, do not sign a voluntary Acknowledgment of
Paternity, otherwise you will be legally responsible for that child until
he or she is 21 years old.
Mother is Married
If the mother is married and her
husband is the father of the child, there is no need to establish
paternity. The law assumes a woman's husband is the father of
If she is legally married and has
a child with someone other than her husband, the law still assumes that
the legal husband is the father. That's true even if she hasn't seen
her husband in many years and knows that he is not the father of her
child. Therefore, if both biological parents want to establish
paternity and the mother is still married to someone else, a paternity
hearing in Family Court is required.
Benefits for the Child
The child receives both emotional
and financial benefits from paternity establishment, such as:
Reassurance that the parents
cared enough to acknowledge paternity.
the father's name on the birth certificate.
or life insurance from either parent, if available.
support from both parents, including:
about family medical history.
Benefits for the Father
establishment of his parental rights.
his name on his child's birth certificate.
right to seek court ordered custody and visitation.
right to be informed and have a say in adoption proceedings.
Benefits for the Mother
about the father's medical history.
insurance coverage for the child from the father's insurance, if
the financial security of the family.