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Why does establising paternity matter?

There are those who may not think that legally establishing the identity of a child's father is important. However, there is a lot that could be lost by not taking the time to establish paternity. This week, this column will address why confirming paternity does matter and how, in the state of Maryland, parentage can be determined.

First off, for potential fathers, establishing paternity can grant them relationships with their children. If paternity is confirmed, fathers will then be able to pursue custody or visitation time. Of course, this can go the other way as well. Those who wish to challenge paternity may also benefit from taking the time to submit to paternity tests. If results come back negative, one typically cannot be legally held responsible for supporting the child.

For mothers, establishing paternity may be the only way to secure financial support. Raising children is costly. If parentage can be confirmed, mothers may then pursue child support payments in family court.

Finally, for children, establishing paternity means knowing who one's father is. This also means having a family history, receiving financial support and possibly having a relationship with one's father. All of this can grant a sense of psychological and emotional relief to a child.

How can paternity be established? In Maryland there are really only two ways in which paternity can be legally confirmed: DNA testing and volunteering parentage. DNA testing at a court approved facility will be required if parentage is not volunteered. If parentage is volunteered, an acknowledgment form will have to be signed by both the child's mother and father. After paternity is established, then both parents can go to court in order to figure out support and custody matters.

For children, mothers and potential fathers in Maryland, confirming paternity can be of significant benefit. Establishing paternity really is an easy process and certainly something worth completing. An experienced attorney can help parents not only take the steps necessary to establish or challenge paternity but can also help them pursue custody and support orders if desired.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Significance of Paternity", Accessed on Oct. 31, 2016

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