Establishing a child’s paternity is important in several areas in Maryland family law, as it can have vast implications on the whole family’s future. The economic consequences of establishing paternity can be very high for all parties involved (the mother, any children, and putative father) and may go on for many years, throughout the child’s adolescence, teenage years, and into adulthood.
It’s essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced Maryland family law attorney with courtroom experience looking out for your interests through the process of establishing (or challenging) paternity.
Whatever challenge you’re facing, a Howard County paternity lawyer can help. Call Coover Law Firm today at (410) 995-1100.
Legal Definitions of Paternity
As a legal term, “paternity” is used to prove a person’s fatherhood. You’ve almost certainly heard the term before, but you may not have heard of voluntary assumed and involuntary paternity.
Voluntary Assumed Paternity
Voluntary assumed paternity involves both the mother and father signing a document and filing it with the vital records department. The office then puts the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate.
Married couples don’t have to sign that document because it is assumed that the mother’s husband is the father of the child. Unmarried couples usually decide to sign and file the document to establish paternity.
Sometimes, a child’s biological father is out of the picture, or the mother may not know who the father is. In those cases, another man may sign the document if they are able and willing to fulfill all the responsibilities of being a father.
If the man whom a mother believes to be the father of her child does not want or refuses to sign the declaration of paternity, the mother can take legal steps to establish the man’s paternity.
A Howard County paternity lawyer will help the mother:
- Go through and sign an affidavit naming the alleged father
- Locate the alleged father and offer them the chance to voluntarily acknowledge paternity
- Schedule genetic testing (if the alleged father declines testing, the Court may determine paternity by default)
- Obtaining and going through the results
The father can still contest the results of genetic testing, even if they confirm paternity. Paternity is officially established if the father fails to contest within 60 days.
Establishing Paternity in Maryland
A person can be established as the father of a child simply by signing an affidavit to be filed with the Court. This may be done at any time up until the 18th birthday of the child. However, signing the affidavit is a voluntary act, and a person cannot be compelled to sign it.
Even if a person has signed the affidavit, there is a 60-day window in which the affidavit can be rescinded so that it cannot be used to establish paternity.
In cases where a voluntary affidavit cannot be obtained, the parties may need to go to Court to decide the issue of paternity. This can involve court-ordered DNA testing (requested by either the mother or the putative father) to determine who is the father of the child.
The Importance of Establishing Paternity in Maryland
In Maryland, a father has a duty to support his children until the time they turn 18 years old, or longer in certain circumstances. Establishing paternity is a necessary requirement before a Maryland family law court can order that a putative father be required to pay child support.
Therefore, a mother seeking child support from a man to whom she was not married is well advised to begin the process of establishing paternity as soon as possible, as delay may make establishing paternity more difficult and may result in a delayed order of child support.
Even where child support is not an issue, establishing paternity is important for a child to be able to receive a share of a father’s estate when the father dies with or without a will. Establishing paternity is also essential for making sure a child is eligible for certain benefits that they may be entitled to through the father, including social security benefits, health care, and veterans’ benefits.
Finally, establishing paternity can be important for gaining access to family health records which may be important for a child’s present and future medical treatment.
Help with Paternity Issues in Howard County
Coover Law Firm is here to help you with issues involving the establishment of paternity and family law matters. We’ll work with you to make sure that the process is fair and efficient and that your interests are asserted in Court. Contact Coover Law Firm for help regarding your paternity law issue today.