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Why should you establish paternity as soon as possible?

You've been witness to your child's birth, and you couldn't be happier. If you're a mother, you know the child is yours, but fathers aren't so lucky. Many must establish paternity before they can be legally recognized.

When a child is born to unmarried parents, it's the job of the father to establish paternity. If paternity is not established, no legal relationship exists, the mother may not collect child support, and the father has no visitation or custody rights. Pennsylvania has a child welfare law that states that welfare clients must establish paternity in cases where the child is born to unmarried parents unless there is a cause not to do so.

What kinds of causes may allow paternity not to be established?

If there is a history of domestic violence, then it may be a case where establishing paternity could be dangerous to the mother and child.

Why should paternity be established?

According to the law, if a father is established, then the child may have the right to inherit property from the father's estate, could be entitled to the father's life insurance benefits, could be eligible for medical coverage if the father is in the military now or previously and may be entitled to child support and health insurance coverage. The child will receive access to the father's medical history, which can help identify illnesses and disabilities that could affect the child in the long term. Paternity also allows a father's name to be placed on the child's birth certificate.

If you're ready to apply for and assert your rights as a father, applying through the court is necessary. Your attorney can walk you through the steps, so you can have the legal relationship you want with your child.

Source: Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center, "Establishing Paternity," accessed Aug. 04, 2016

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