When a woman gives birth to a child, there is obviously no question as to the biological relationship between the baby and the mother. However, this is not always the case with the father of the baby. When a woman is married, her husband is assumed to be the biological father of a child she gives birth to. In such a case, the father does not need to do anything to establish the legal rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent. However, the same is not true for unmarried fathers. You will need to first establish paternity.
Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity
If a couple who is not married has a child together, they have several options for establishing paternity. The easiest way to establish paternity is by signing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (VAP) document. These forms are often available at the hospital and can be signed by both parents shortly after their baby is born. VAP forms are also available at your local county clerk, the Department of Health and Family Services, and at Child Support Services. A VAP form should only be used when the parents are certain as to the paternity of the child. If you are not certain as to the biological relationship between your child and his or her possible father, you should not sign a VAP form.
When the Father is Unknown or Does Not Admit His Paternity
You will need to get a court order or administrative order through the Department of Health and Family Services (DFHS) if you cannot sign a VAP. The court and, in some cases, the DHFS have the ability to compel the potential father to submit to DNA testing in order to determine if he is the father of the child. If the DNA test results show that the potential father is indeed the biological father of the child, he becomes the child’s legal father and will likely be required to pay child support. If he chooses to, he will also be able to pursue parental responsibilities and parenting time with the child....