What does Establishing Paternity Mean and Why is it Important?
Establishing paternity in Maryland is the legal process by which the court formally recognizes that the child’s biological father is the child’s legal father.
There are certain presumptions that apply with regard to paternity when it comes to married versus unmarried couples. Specifically: (a) if the parents are married at the time of conception or birth, the law presumes both mother and father are the child’s legal mother and father; both parents have all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood as to the child; (b) if the parties are not married at the time of conception or birth, only mother is presumed to be the child’s legal parent, and the father status has to be established through extra steps; paternity can be established through genetic testing, court involvement or by parents signing an Affidavit of Parentage.
Having paternity established is important for many reasons for the benefit of father, mother, and child. These benefits include:
- The child will have the benefit of a father-child relationship and bond;
- Father will be listed on the birth certificate;
- Father will have financial responsibilities as to the child;
- Father will have the right to seek custody, both physical and legal, of the child and play a role in the child’s life (however a paternity finding is not a prerequisite for a custody filing);
- Child benefits from knowledge of father’s medical history and access to father’s medical insurance coverage;
- Allows the parents to work together for the benefit of the child;
- Permits child to be exposed to family members on both sides and form a relationship and connection to both families.
How to Establish Paternity?
In Maryland there are three (3) main ways in which a father can establish paternity of his child:
- Affidavit of Parentage: paternity can be established by both parties voluntarily signing an Affidavit of Parentage. Paternity would be acknowledged through the singing of this Affidavit. The Maryland Department of Human Services has on their website the Affidavit of Parentage form. This form can be signed at the hospital after the child is born, or after the child leaves the hospital. If signed at the Hospital, often times the Hospital staff can assist with facilitating the signing and sending to the Vital Statistics Administration. If the Affidavit is signed after the child leaves the Hospital, it must be notarized and mailed to the Maryland Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records. If the father is unsure if he is the biological father, the Affidavit of Parentage should not be signed.
- Genetic Testing: Another option is for the parties to agree to submit to DNA testing in order to establish paternity. There are many private labs in the area that parties can work through to facilitate a DNA test to determine paternity. Alternatively, a party can contact their local county branch of the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration to facilitate the DNA testing.
- Filing in Court: A parent can seek court involvement in establishing paternity. Paternity can be established through formally petitioning the court to order genetic testing to determine paternity. If the court orders genetic testing, both parents and the child must be tested. DNA is collected through a cheek swab. Once paternity is determined, a party can then petition through the court for custody and child support. If the DNA test shows a statistical likelihood of 97.3% or greater that the alleged father is the father, the matter may be set for a hearing to determine paternity. If paternity is established, the father has all the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent, including the payment of child support. Custody can also be established. There is no presumption that one parent has a superior claim to custody over the other.
If you have any questions about paternity, or you are seeking to establish paternity and/or wish to file a child support or custody case, we have the legal expertise to review your case and take all necessary steps to assist. Contact the experienced family law attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates, LLC today to schedule a consultation.