When a married couple has a baby, North Carolina law states that both parents are automatically the legal parents of the child. This gives both mother and father all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. This is not, however, the case with unmarried couples. When an unmarried couple has a child, the relationship between the father and the child is not immediately recognized. If an individual is in this type of situation and desires to have the obligations and benefits of having that parent-child relationship, one must establish paternity.
How to Establish Paternity
There are four basic routes to establishing paternity in the State of North Carolina. The first and most common way of establishing paternity is already being married prior to the time of the child’s birth. The second route to establishing paternity is also in regards to marriage. If the father and mother marry after the child is born, their child is legitimated retroactively, meaning going all the way back to birth.
The two other routes used to establish paternity that do not involve marriage are the following:
Sign an Affidavit of Parentage
Signing the affidavit is a totally voluntary process. An affidavit of parentage is a legally binding document that is very difficult to overturn. Many unmarried couples prefer to sign the affidavit at the hospital or birthing center. Because an affidavit is a sworn statement, the mother and father must sign it in the presence of official witnesses. By signing an affidavit, the mother and father are agreeing that the father is the biological and legal father of the child. This affidavit also establishes the father’s obligation to pay child support and the child’s right to inherit from the father. An affidavit of parentage provides the father with standing to seek a custody order from the court. Lastly, both parents must agree in the affidavit if the father’s name should be added to the birth certificate.
A paternity action can be presented in court by either of the parents, or by a lawyer for Child Support Services (CSS). The parties can settle the case on their own time or they can go to trial. If they choose to proceed into trial, the judge will decide whether the supposed father is the child’s legal and biological father. Either of the parties or the judge may request genetic testing, upon which everyone involved must submit to testing. If the results show a 97% probability of paternity or more, the court will establish paternity. Lastly, the judge will issue a final paternity order and make decisions regarding custody, visitation, and residency.
5 Benefits of Establishing Paternity
o The parents can work together to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child.
o Signing the affidavit secures the father’s right to go to court to ask for custody and visitation.
o The child’s birth certificate will include the mother’s and father’s name.
o The child is guaranteed the ability to access medical records from both sides of the family.
o A child with a legal father has access to benefits, through the father, such as, social security, medical insurance, and other state, federal, and inheritance benefits.