While a mother’s rights are essentially automatic in Maryland, fathers often have a much more difficult time. Many fathers have to undergo a legal battle just to prove they are entitled to rights, and then they often have to take legal measures to assert those rights.
The first step for many fathers is to establish legal paternity. The team at the Carmiece Graves Law Firm can help with this delicate legal process. Our experienced family law firm is dedicated to protecting the relationship between fathers and their children and we are committed to helping our clients reach their goals.
What Happens When a Father Establishes Paternity?
When a father establishes legal paternity for a child, the law recognizes the parent-child relationship between them. Legal paternity can:
- Allow the father’s name to be listed on the child’s birth certificate
- Enable a father to seek custody or visitation
- Provide the child with financial support, inheritance rights, government benefits, and insurance
- Allow the father to obtain the child’s records associated with school, medical visits, and more
- Make it easier for the child to gain access to the father’s medical history
- Give the child a stronger sense of connection and identity
- Allow a father to object if the child is put up for adoption
Because of the connection created by establishing legal paternity, rights flow both ways. The father receives rights that allow him to communicate and spend time with the child while the child receives the right to financial support. Paternity is critical for both fathers and their children.
When the Mother is Married at the Time a Child is Born
Maryland law presumes that when a woman is married at the time of a child’s conception or birth, her husband is the father of the child. The husband does not need to do anything to establish paternity.
If you are the biological father and the mother is married to someone else, it is important to take steps to assert your rights and establish paternity as quickly as possible. The longer the other man is assumed to be the legal father, the less likely a court will be to disrupt that legal standing.
Maryland paternity laws were enacted before same-sex marriage was legalized. LGBTQ couples may need to take special care to establish parental rights.
Ways to Establish Paternity Outside of Marriage
When the mother of a child is not married at the time she gives birth, paternity can be legally established in Maryland by the signing of an Affidavit of Parentage. This document is a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Both parents must sign the affidavit. A father can sign even if he is under 18 years of age or is married to someone else. Because this form establishes legal rights, parents are advised to consult an attorney before signing. While it is possible to cancel an Affidavit after signing, you must have proper legal grounds for doing so.
If both parents do not agree to a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, one parent can ask the court to make a determination of paternity. (The Office of Child Support Enforcement can also request a judicial declaration of paternity.) Paternity is then usually determined based on genetic testing. The court can order genetic testing, which no longer requires a blood test but can be completed with a saliva sample.
If a father states under oath (in a pleading or court proceeding) that he is the father, the court may make a legal determination based on that statement. However, when the court establishes paternity based on a statement, it is possible for someone to later file a motion to disestablish paternity or require genetic testing.
Find Out How Our Fathers’ Rights Lawyers Could Help You Establish Paternity in Maryland
Many people are surprised to learn how complicated legal paternity issues can be. If you need to establish paternity, it is often most advantageous to take prompt action rather than waiting until presumptions become accepted as fact.
At the Carmiece Graves Law Firm, we understand what is at stake in a paternity case, and we are ready to help. Contact us now to get started.