Establishing your paternity is the basis for your legal relationship with your children. If you are married, this happens more or less automatically.
However, you might need to take additional steps. Remember: This is not about being a dad. It is about getting the legal rights and responsibilities you deserve as a parent.
How courts establish paternity
As explained by FindLaw, the most straightforward way to establish a presumption of paternity is to marry the mother of your child (before she gives birth). However, you could find this option undesirable, impractical or simply impossible.
To backtrack for a moment, courts would presume that you are the father of any child your wife delivers. This means that there could be support obligations, custody interests or pathways of inheritance between you and your child.
Beyond the presumptions
It is one thing if the court presumes you to be the father of your children. It is another entirely if you do not have this legal relationship.
There are a variety of potential risks that stem from not establishing legal paternity. They include potentially lacking the ability to make major life decisions for your child, difficult custody battles and some estate planning issues.
To reduce these types of risks, you might have the option of signing a voluntary admission of paternity form. When both you and the mother are confident that you are the father of the child, and when you follow procedure correctly, these forms could establish the legal basis for your relationship.
Of course, there are a number of challenges that might apply to your situation. However, most situations have options. For example, even if the mother of your child does not want you to have a parental relationship, it could be possible to entreat the court to protect your rights as a father.