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Legal paternity matters: Here are the reasons why


Your relationship didn’t last, but you and your ex-partner do have a child together. Does it really matter if you establish the child’s legal paternity?

It does. The consequences of not taking this step can affect your child even beyond your lifetime. Here’s what you should know.

How is paternity established?

When a child’s parents are unmarried, the two most common ways to establish paternity are through an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) or a DNA test. Whether court-ordered or done voluntarily, many would-be fathers prefer to have a DNA test taken just to resolve any potential issues about a child’s biological heritage.

Why is legal paternity important?

Establishing a child’s paternity has both legal and emotional benefits. The main ones include:

  • A sense of identity and belonging: It can make it easier for a child born to unwed parents to be accepted by extended family, especially on the father’s side.
  • It makes bonding easier: If a father has any doubts about a child’s paternity, that can make it harder to establish a real emotional connection.
  • The financial obligations are clear: Without legal paternity, child support is not obligatory. That can create a power imbalance between the parents and put the child’s wellbeing at risk.
  • Custody and visitation can be ordered: Fathers without paternity are in a precarious legal position. Without legal paternity, the mother controls the father’s access to the child. Once paternity is established, the court can grant the father fair visitation rights or — if needed — custody.
  • Medical and educational decisions can be made: There may come a time when you want to have a say in your child’s education or medical treatment — or even just access to their records. Paternity gives you that right.
  • Inheritance rights and benefits: If a child’s father passes away, legal paternity can give that child access to important survivor’s benefits and any inheritance the father may leave behind.

If you need to establish paternity for your child, talk to an experienced attorney today about the process.

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