With divorce such a common way of life, many people have chosen not to marry. According to the United States Census Bureau, marital rates are decreasing among young adults, whereas cohabitation rates are increasing. Reasons are numerous, from changes in social expectations to the desire for a clean break when a relationship ends.
But not all breaks are clean. When your relationship has produced children, the process of splitting up is very much like a divorce due to parental rights. Whether you marry the mother of your children, you are still the father, and as such, you have certain rights. This is why establishing paternity is so important.
Paternity under cohabitation
When a couple marries, generally, the names of both parents automatically go on the birth certificate. This is not the case for cohabitating couples. You both have to complete a Paternity Acknowledgement form at the child’s birth or an Acknowledgement of Paternity form any time after. If you and the mother plan on marrying soon, you can fill out a form to add your name to the birth certificate once you have applied for your marriage license.
Your rights as a father
If your partner leaves, you still have the right to see your children, but only if you have legally established your paternity. Doing so allows you to pursue custody, visitation and decision-making power.
Your children’s rights
Acknowledging you are the father also helps your children. They will be able to rely on you for financial support and be eligible for inheritances and other benefits. They will be aware of their medical history for better treatment. Most important, they will maintain a relationship with you, which will positively affect their well-being.
What if you do not think you are the father, or you do not want the responsibilities that come with fatherhood? You also have the right to challenge or refuse to acknowledge paternity.