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Information about determing the legal father of a child

You've probably heard about establishing paternity, but do you know what that really means? For a father who is not married to the child's mother, it means that the man who believes he is the child's father must prove he is.

Establishing paternity can be done a couple of ways. One way is to sign a "Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage." This must be signed by both the mother and the father. The man becomes the child's legal father when that form is filed with the Registry of Vital Records. The man's name can then be put on the birth certificate.

If the mother does not want to sign the form or the man doesn't think he is the father of the child, it is best to get a genetic marker paternity tests -- a DNA test -- to determine the man is the child's father.

If the DNA test shows that the man is the child's father, then the Department of Revenue will help the father or the mother in asking the court to establish paternity.

There are a number of benefits that come with the declaration of a man as the child's father. These include:

-- The child gets rights to an inheritance.

-- The child can access the father's life insurance benefits and medical benefits.

-- The child would be eligible to receive veterans benefits and social security benefits if applicable.

-- The child and the father could develop a relationship.

-- The child will have a better sense of who he or she is when he or she has a connection to the mother and father.

While there are financial responsibilities that come with a determination of paternity, a father can also apply for visitation or custody rights. An attorney experienced in family law issues can help with this process.

Source: Department of Revenue, "Paternity Establishment," accessed Dec. 21, 2015

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