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Paternity is important, and there are many factors to take into account when establishing paternity. Parents are responsible for the schooling, health and the general well-being of their children until they become adults. Mothers and fathers continue to care for their children long after they’ve graduated high school and college, left the family home and gone on to pursue careers and raise their own families.

Why is Establishing Paternity Important?

Identifying a child’s parents can simplify matters that are often brought up in court cases. Custody hearings, divorce proceedings and child visitation cases may go more smoothly when children’s parents have been defined. It can also create personal bonds that will last a lifetime.

Establishing paternity as soon as possible creates an automatic relationship between fathers, mothers and their children. Those associations will be created without having to ascertain them in a court of law. Both parents’ names should be on the respective child’s birth certificate.

As they grow older, children can learn about any possible health concerns that are in their family. They are also eligible to be covered under their parents’ medical plans. Other benefits, such as life insurance, inheritance, veterans’ benefits, social security and financial assistance may be acquired.

Fathers can also request child visitation and child support after paternity has been identified. These actions may be accomplished through court orders. Parents can be contacted regarding adoption requests as well.

How Can I Establish Paternity in Maryland?

Paternity can be established in the state of Maryland in three ways:

  • Signing an Affidavit of Parentage after a child’s birth. An Affidavit of Parentage can be obtained from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Division of Vital Records. Versions of this form are currently available in English and Spanish. A notary public must be present when both parents sign the affidavit. Hospital staff members may serve as witnesses for this document.

The affidavit is considered a legal affirmation of parentage after it has been signed. It is not recommended to continue with the affidavit if the birth mother can’t verify that her child has only one possible father. If the mother was married at the time that the child was born or conceived, the Affidavit of Parentage will not be executed.

Legal counsel and a genetic test can be sought by the person who is named as the child’s father on the affidavit. People who are currently under the age of 18 can sign an Affidavit of Parentage without prior approval from a parent or legal guardian. However, it is generally recommended that a guardian or parent consult with that person before the document has been signed.

Affidavits of parentage can also be rescinded if necessary. A person who is listed as a child’s parent in that circumstance must complete a Recission Form for Affidavit of Parentage with a notary public present within 60 days from when the original Affidavit of Parentage was first signed. This form is available from the same state government office as the Affidavit of Parentage. Recission forms signed after that time cannot effectively cancel the affidavit. The 60-day time period will begin from the latest date that the last parent signed the parentage affidavit.

Parental claims can still be nullified by court order in special situations. They may also be rescinded if material mistakes of facts, duress or fraud were found. Evidence must be presented in court to substantiate such claims.

  • Presumption by marriage. The state of Maryland will assume that if a mother is married at the time of her child’s birth or conception, that her husband is the rightful father of that child. Both parents are presumed to be the child’s legal parents in those instances.

Fatherhood in marriage presumption may be rebutted. Courts will generally assume that the mother’s husband is the father of her child, unless it is challenged. For example, a previous boyfriend of the mother could make a claim that he is the father of her child. If that claim is proven true, her husband may no longer be viewed as the legal father o that child.

  • Receiving a court order which states that a person is a legal father to the child in question. Paternity can also be created by a judge. This may be necessary for children who are born to unwed mothers.

A court filing can be made to determine parental status by the Office of Child Support Enforcement and one of the parents. Genetic testing will be required to verify the child’s rightful parents. Once parentage has been established, those parents will be expected to support their child financially until they turn 18.

Paternity can also be assigned without genetic testing. A person may affirm on record under oath at a court proceeding or at a pleading that they are the child’s father. In this instance, it’s possible that one or both parents could ask the court for assistance in confirming the parentage of the child at a later date. The person who brings up the matter in court could file a motion in the original case or begin a new motion. They may ask for genetic testing or to have the previous parentage removed from the records.

DNA tests may also be requested to prove parentage. A saliva sample will be obtained by swabbing the inside of the person’s cheek. Swab tests can be acquired at a local department of social services or doctor’s office. It usually takes about four to six weeks on average to receive test results. A statistical probability of 97.3 percent or higher that the person who was tested is a child’s father is mandatory before the test result can be admitted as evidence in a paternity case.

Parents may opt to give up their parental rights and duties. This is also known as disestablishing paternity. The legal actions that can be taken in those incidences may vary, according to how their parentage was originally established.

If you have questions or concerns about setting paternity for your children, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Our trained professionals will sit down with you to hear what you have to say. They will advise you as to your next possible steps.

Not every adult gets to be a parent. Parenting can be a wonderful experience, one that creates a lifelong bond. It’s an important responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Knowing your rights and obligations can improve family life as well as your general well-being and peace of mind.