When a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological father does not initially have rights. If the father wishes to be in the child’s life or the mother wants to receive child support, paternity must be established.

A father who chooses to be in his child’s life must prove paternity in one of the following ways:

  • Marry the mother and sign a legitimization form
  • Provide support and convincing relational evidence that he is the father in the course of the child’s life
  • Sign a voluntary agreement of paternity with the mother
  • Present clear evidence of paternity, such as a DNA test

If a father does not pursue paternity, it’s possible another man could legally be named the child’s presumed father.

The two types of paternity

In the case of voluntarily assumed paternity, the father either acknowledges the child openly or one of the scenarios above applies. However, the claim of paternity is, in some cases, subject to the mother’s approval. If she does not acknowledge an unmarried father’s paternity claim with a witness statement, the father will not gain rights even if he is listed on a document claiming paternity. He may pursue the matter further in court if this happens.

In involuntary paternity cases, the mother or the state can bring a paternity lawsuit against the potential father with the aim of getting child support. The father will have to appear in court and cooperate with a DNA test.

An unmarried father who establishes paternity gains both rights and responsibilities. He will be expected to contribute to the child’s financial needs, and he will be allowed to seek custody or visitation rights. Paternity gives unmarried fathers equitable rights.