The notion of marriage before having children is less commonplace than it once was. Fast forward to today, and countless couples are foregoing tying the proverbial knot to build their own families.
Yet, when problems start creating fractures in the non-wedded relationship, the lack of clarity in the child’s father can begin a complex process. Dads claiming to be the biological father have options, specifically signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form at the facility where the child is born.
A complex process
Filing the form can result in their name appearing on the birth certificate. From there, they can also submit to a voluntary DNA test to bring clarity to parenthood. Subsequently, custodial parents can pursue child support, while noncustodial parents may pursue custody and visitation agreements.
Conversely, some purported dads deny parentage, forcing the biological mother to file a Petition to Establish Paternity in the appropriate district court where the child resides. Should the father ignore the petition and not appear in court, judges have the option of default orders that declare them to be the legal father.
An order to force genetic testing could be the next step, likely resulting in a child support order upon confirmation. When it comes to custody and visitation, the court is unlikely to take sides. However, the child’s primary caregiver would likely have more of an advantage as they have been with the child since birth.
Establishing paternity does not mean prioritizing one parent over the other regarding time spent with children. As with any aspect of family law involving children, their best interests take priority.
Fathers who suspect they have a biological link to a child should take proactive steps sooner rather than later. What is best for a child is to have two parents putting aside their differences to focus on the well-being of their offspring.