Research overwhelmingly indicates your child will perform better academically, adapt and develop better socially and cope better emotionally if his or her father plays a significant role in their life. Children with active fathers score higher on standardized tests and exhibit fewer behavioral issues than those with absent fathers. In the event your child was born outside of wedlock, there exists no legal connection between father and child without taking specific legal steps toward filiation.
Filiation – also known as paternity – is the legal action you will need to take to establish who will be your child’s legal father, carrying with it all the associated rights and responsibilities. The attorneys at R+E can file a Petition for Filiation on your behalf, get the process started, and help move you toward the certainty of a court order.
You will need some kind of evidence to support your claim you are the father. Mississippi Courts accept DNA testing as dispositive evidence paternity should be established so long as the results indicate more than a 98% probability of paternity. Your R+E attorney can connect you with a reputable DNA testing laboratory to provide testing at a reasonable cost. You may also provide your child’s birth certificate as evidence of paternity if it was signed at the time of birth by the father. When both parties agree on filiation, state approved affidavits may be submitted as evidence if signed by both parties and notarized. Courts also accept corroborated testimony of paternity in the event none of the above are available.
Establishing paternity gives your child the same rights to financial support and other benefits given to children born of a marriage including child support. After paternity is confirmed by court order, the fathers name is placed on the child’s birth certificate, so there is no longer any question about the father’s identity. When the Court establishes you are the father, you can request the child’s surname (last name) be changed to yours. This request is usually granted unless the child has reached an age in which they are widely known in the community by another last name.
Filiation ensures either parent can seek child support and other benefits (on behalf of the child) from the other. This means a newly established father can petition for custody, just as if they were the “legal” father from birth. As a newly confirmed father, you may be required to pay part or all of the expenses related to the mother’s pregnancy. A court can also require you to add your child to any existing health insurance policies or purchase a health insurance policy for your child. You will, however, be entitled to get to spend time with your child so long as the court determines visitation to be in your child’s best interest.
Filiation also ensures your child can inherit from the father and his family. Your child will also be able to receive Social Security and Veteran’s benefits on his or her father’s record, if eligible.
If you don’t take steps to establish paternity, you could lose all rights to custody or visitation with your child, and you may even lose the right to receive notice of court proceedings affecting the placement and care of your child. Likewise, your child will never receive the support and care he or she deserves without filiation.
Your R+E attorney will guide you through each step of the way.