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How can I establish my parenthood over my child?

If you've never married to your child's other parent, then you could have dozens of questions about your rights as a parent to your child. Here are some common questions about paternity and how you can acknowledge that you're the father to your newborn, or growing, child.

First of all, start at the beginning of your child's life. If you weren't married to the mother of the child, then you won't automatically be listed as the father of your child. What do you need to do? In most cases, you need to file a document called a Stipulation for Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage. By doing so, you'll be volunteering to take on the responsibility of being the child's father. It takes 60 days for this form to pass through the court, and at that point, it's legally binding.

You won't necessarily have to hunt for this form. After 1994, laws were changed that made it compulsory for hospitals to provide this form to parents at the hospital. If the parents are unmarried, they can acknowledge parenthood at the time of the child's birth, so the legal paperwork is taken care of immediately. This also allows the hospital to put the father's name on the child's birth certificate from the beginning.

How does this help you in the future? If you and your the child's other parent are not longer a couple, then you will have a right to child custody since you're the legal father of your child. If you failed to sign this paperwork, you can still establish your parenthood later, but it can be more difficult and time consuming to do so.

Source: Hampshire Probate Court, "Answers to common questions for never-married parents," accessed April. 14, 2015

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