Sometimes, establishing the paternity of a child is easy. If the child’s mother is married at the time of the child’s birth, the mother’s husband is presumed to be the child’s father. However, if the child is born out of wedlock, or the mother, her husband, or the biological father object to the presumed paternity, legal paternity should be established to protect the rights of the child, father, and mother.
How a Mother Can Establish Paternity
A mother seeking to establish legal paternity of her child may:
- Request the father sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit at the hospital when the child is born
- Request a genetic test to determine if the child’s alleged father is the biological father
- File a paternity lawsuit if the biological father refuses to acknowledge paternity through an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit
Mothers often seek to establish paternity, so the child can benefit from a relationship with the child’s father. The child may benefit from a paternal relationship in many ways, including:
- Child support and health insurance coverage
- A father’s custody or visitation rights
- Easier access to the father’s medical history
- Eligibility for government benefits based on the father’s veteran or another status
- Inheritance rights equal to a child born to two spouses during a marriage
How a Father Can Establish Paternity
A father may seek to establish legal paternity if a child was born out of wedlock or the child was born while the mother was married to someone else. In these cases, the father may:
- Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit at the hospital when the child is born. The affidavit will be filed with the child’s birth certificate and establish legal paternity.
- Request a genetic test to determine paternity.
- Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit after the child is born and file it with the Louisiana Vital Records registry.
- File a paternity lawsuit if the mother refuses to sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit.
A legal acknowledgment of paternity provides benefits not only for the child but also for the father. Once legal paternity is established, a father may:
- Petition the court for child custody or visitation
- Establish a relationship with his child
- Have inheritance rights equal to the child’s mother, if his child predeceases him
How to Submit Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavits
An Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit may only be signed after a child is born in Louisiana. For children born outside of marriage, both parents must sign the form in front of two witnesses and the presence of a notary public. A properly completed and executed affidavit establishes legal paternity and all the rights and responsibilities that come with that determination.
Louisiana law has different requirements if the mother was married or recently divorced when the child was born and the father is someone other than the mother’s husband. In these cases, the Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit must include:
- The signatures of the mother, the mother’s husband or ex-husband, and the biological father made in front of two witnesses and the presence of a notary public
- A DNA-based paternity test that establishes the father’s identity with at least a 99.9% probability
If the Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit is executed in the hospital, it may be filed with the child’s birth certificate without any additional cost. However, if the Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit is executed later, it must be filed with the Louisiana Vital Records Central Office with the required statutory fees.
Now Is the Time to Establish Paternity
Whether your goal is to protect your child’s paternal relationship or provide for your child’s succession rights, now is the time to establish paternity. You may prevent future estate litigation and family conflict by taking action to establish paternity as soon as possible.
If you have questions about establishing paternity or how paternity disputes may impact a Louisiana succession, we would be happy to assist you. Call us today at (504) 264-1057 to get started on your case.