What is Paternity?
Paternity, often known as Father’s Rights, is the legal acknowledgment by the court of the parental relationship between a Father and his Child. Even if you are paying Child Support, are on the Birth Certificate, or have even passed a Paternity Test, you still may have NO legal rights as a Father. In general, Paternity is presumed and no court action is necessary if a child is born to parents who are married at the time of the child’s birth or who become married after the child is born, if certain steps are taken.
However, without the establishment of Paternity or Father’s Rights, if you are not married to the Mother of your child and you do not intend on marrying her, you likely have NO legal rights in regard to spending time with your child or making decisions that affect your child.
Don’t let the term Father’s Rights mislead you – a Paternity action not only acknowledges the Father and establishes his rights, but also establishes Child Support, Time Sharing (visitation), and Decision Making (custody) through what is called a Parenting Plan.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan addresses two major issues: Time Sharing (visitation) and Decision Making (custody). From a Time Sharing standpoint, the Parenting Plan describes, in great detail, where and how the children will be spending their time. It addresses each child’s Daily Schedule, Holiday Time Sharing, Vacation Time Sharing, as well as all Communication and Logistical Concerns associated with the Time Sharing. The Parenting Plan also delineates whether the parents will make major decisions affecting the children together, or whether one parent is better equipped, depending on the individual circumstances, to make the decisions solely. Based on the Time Sharing schedule and other relevant factors, Child Support is ordinarily established as well. A strong and effective Parenting Plan can reduce or even eliminate future conflict and the resulting litigation concerning Time Sharing and Decision Making issues.
Who Can Bring a Paternity Action and How is it Brought?
Any woman who is pregnant or has a child, any man who thinks he may be the father of a child, or any child can bring a lawsuit to legally establish Paternity – so long as Paternity has not been established otherwise. A Paternity case works similar to a divorce with minor children, except that alimony and equitable distribution are not at issue.
The first step in bringing a Paternity action is to hire a family lawyer to file a Petition to Determine Paternity. The family law attorney should guide you through the process, ultimately getting a Final Judgment of Paternity, establishing a Parenting Plan and Child Support. The Attorneys with Levinson & Capuano are here to assist you in establishing and protecting your rights and the rights of your children. Taking the right steps now in establishing Paternity can positively impact you and your child’s life forever.