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Paternity establishment is an important step for fathers

There was no moment in your life more exciting than when you found out you had a child on the way. You knew you wanted to be in your child's life. While you can be there from the first day, something you may not know is that you won't automatically be assumed to be the father in all cases. In those cases, you need to take steps to assert paternity.

Why is establishing paternity important?

Paternity means that a child's father is identifiable. When you identify yourself as the child's father, you gain your paternal rights, rights given to you because you are biologically related to your child. If you did not marry the mother of your child, you won't automatically be assumed to be the father. You may need to seek paternity testing and ask to establish paternity.

Once paternity is established, you gain many legal rights. You also gain the responsibility to care for your child. For example, you now may have the right to make decisions for your child or about your child's care. You also are legally bound to pay child support if you are not the primary custodian of the child in many cases.

How can you establish paternity?

You can establish paternity in a number of ways. The easiest is if you're married. If you're married to the mother, you'll automatically be assumed to be the father of the child at birth. You may also voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. If the mother requests it or you deny paternity, a DNA test may be ordered to prove that you are the father of the child. A court order may be issued for a DNA test if you refuse one or if the mother disputes your claim. Our website has more on what you can do if you're ready to file paternity papers.

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