When a child is born to a married couple, both spouses are the child’s legal parents. When parents are not married, the mother is the child’s only legal parent unless the couple takes specific steps.
There are important reasons to ensure your child has two legal parents. If you have a child and were never married to your co-parent, contact an experienced family attorney about how to establish your child’s paternity. If you are a man who is the subject of a paternity action and do not believe you are the child’s father, a Junction City paternity lawyer could help you defend the action.
What Are Parental Rights?
To be a legal parent is to have certain rights and obligations, which a knowledgeable Junction City paternity attorney could explain in detail. When biological parents live separately, the father has no right to parenting time unless he is the child’s legal parent. If he is the child’s legal parent, he must pay child support.
Being a legal parent also gives a father the right to ask the court for residential and legal custody. Residential custody means the place where the child lives. Legal custody means the right to make significant decisions about the child’s healthcare, religion, education, and other important topics.
A legal parent can add a child to their health insurance and claim them as a tax deduction. If the parent is entitled to certain benefits, such as veterans’ disability, the child might receive benefits as well. The child can inherit from their legal parent on the same basis as the parent’s other children.
Establishing Paternity Voluntarily
A couple could establish paternity at the time of birth by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital. Both parents must sign the form, and it must be notarized and filed with the state’s Office of Vital Statistics. Pediatricians’ offices also have the form, and the couple could complete it at a well-baby visit.
Couples who wait can still voluntarily acknowledge paternity. They can sign a Paternity Consent Form for Birth Registration any time before the child’s 18th birthday. Both parents must sign the document and have it notarized, but a judge also must approve the form. A diligent paternity lawyer in Junction City could help a couple arrange to get judicial approval to file a Paternity Consent Form.
Establishing Paternity Through the Courts
When parents did not voluntarily establish paternity, a court process allows a judge to determine paternity. Either parent, the child, a government official, or a local prosecutor could petition the court to make a paternity determination. Government officials and prosecutors typically bring these actions when the child is receiving government benefits like food stamps or KanCare.
If a man disputes being the child’s father, Kansas Statutes Annotated §23-2212 allows the court to order a genetic test. Both parents and the child must submit a cheek swab, and a lab will run a DNA analysis. If the DNA results indicate the man is the child’s father, the court will issue a Determination of Paternity. The father will have parental rights, including the obligation to pay child support and the right to seek custody and parenting time.
As with any decision regarding children, the court will consider the child’s best interests before granting a father parenting time. If the child is older and has no relationship with the father, courts are likely to accommodate a mother’s request that the relationship be allowed to develop slowly and at the child’s comfort level. A capable legal professional in Junction City could help parents develop a parenting plan that supports the child and allows the father to gradually build a place in the child’s life.
Work With a Junction City Paternity Attorney
If you wish to ensure your child has two legal parents, or if you are a man who is the subject of a paternity action, get legal assistance now.
A Junction City paternity lawyer could listen to your concerns and guide you toward resolution. Call today to discuss your situation with a compassionate attorney.