Have you ever heard the saying, “Becoming a father is easy enough, but being one can be very rough?” I’ve spoken with many parents in St. Louis County, and many say that the first time they held their child was when they felt like a parent. There was so much excitement and nerves leading up to that moment, but they knew it would be all right the as soon as they locked eyes with their newborn. But what if you didn’t have that opportunity? What if your child was born and you didn’t know? What if you weren’t included in this precious event? This is an unfortunate reality for many parents, even in St. Louis County.
Paternity, by definition, is the state of being someone’s father. It includes the rights and obligations of both the man and the child to one another. After a child is born, paternity can be revealed in a few ways. Our St. Louis paternity attorneys explain.
Establishing Paternity at the Hospital
The most frequent way occurs in the delivery room. By common law, a child born to a married couple is presumed to be the husbands. When a newborn is delivered, a father will sign the birth certificate, therefore establishing paternity. There are no tests involved at this point.
As a parent, you should make sure that this happens not only for your own security, but for your child’s. Right now, you may be shaking your head in disbelief that you would not be there for the delivery of your child. Things happen, though. Perhaps your wife goes into labor while you are on a business trip or you’re unable to get to Mercy Hospital as fast as you’d like. What if you’re in the military? Signing a birth certificate may seem like a simple step, but the establishing of the paternity can provide undeniable security for your child. Why risk that?
What If You And Your Partner Aren’t Married?
Sometimes, though, evidence is presented that the husband was not actually the child’s father. It gets even more complicated when the child is born out of wedlock. Recent studies have shown that 40 percent of children in America are born out of wedlock. In St. Louis County alone 96 percent of mothers under the age of twenty were unmarried when they had their first child. Furthermore, fathers are not involved in 28 percent of Missouri family homes, and it isn’t necessarily because they opted not to be.
When the child is born out of wedlock additional measures need to be taken. A declaration of paternity needs to be filed through the Missouri of Bureau of Vital Records, if you believe you are the father of a child. A father also needs to submit his name for the putative father registry. This allows a father to officially claim that he is the father of a child. This is important because it is also used in adoption proceedings so that the father’s consent can be taken into consideration.
If the paternity of a child is not easily identifiable there are more considerations and steps that will be taken. Any party of interest including the mother, the father, or the child can ask the court for a determination of paternity. While the paternity suit is in progress a person identified as the child’s father will be known as the putative father. If he denies or is not sure of his status as the father a DNA test can be administered. After the father, mother, and child are administered a cheek swab test the probability of paternity can be identified. The test will exclude a man who is not the biological father, if not excluded it will show the likelihood of the paternity; in Missouri, if the percentage of probability is 98 percent or higher that man will be known as the father.
A lawsuit in Missouri can either be brought by a private party such as the mother in an effort to get support or a by the state. The state will typically bring a suit when the mother applies for public assistance in order for the state to be reimbursed for the aid given.
Benefits of Paternity Testing
There are many benefits of establishing paternity including benefits, medical history, identity, and the father figure concept. Benefits can include social security, insurance benefits (including medical), inheritance rights, and veterans benefits. By establishing paternity your child’s life can be greatly improved. There is also the importance of medical history. It is very important for a child to know their medical history and also the medical history of family members. This not only benefits the child itself by their future children. By noticing patterns of disorders among relatives, healthcare professionals can determine whether an individual, other family members, or future generations may be at increased risk of a certain condition. This also allows a child to be aware of their higher chance of having common disorders such as heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
Additionally, determining a father can also help with the child’s identity. They’ll have their father’s name on their birth certificate. They’ll help the child understand who they are by having that history and knowledge of their background. Furthermore, having a father figure in the house greatly benefits the child. When both parents share the responsibility of raising a child the child is more likely to stay off drugs, finish high school, stay out of jail, delay pregnancy, and earn more money later in life.
If you find yourself in the position where you are potentially the father in a paternity suit you may be under a lot of stress and worry. Whether, the mother is looking to you as a way to gain child support or if you find yourself wanting to be emotionally invested in this child’s life you are sure to have a lot of questions.
At Bardol Law Firm, LLC, our St. Louis County paternity lawyer has helped both mothers and fathers through the legitimization process. We encourage you to reach out and ask us any questions you may have about this ongoing process. Establishing paternity is tricky, time-consuming and can take an emotional toll on your well-being.
You need to focus on what’s best for you and your child; we’re here to help.