Paternity confirms the identity of a child's father, and confers important legal rights to both father and child. In Oklahoma, when married couples have a baby, the state automatically assumes that the husband is the child's legal father. However, that isn't the case when people who aren't married have children.
Your child may be the light of your life, but if you weren't married to their mother at the start of the pregnancy or when the baby was born, you'll need to take steps to establish your paternity and invoke your parental rights. Fortunately, the skillful family law attorneys with the Law Office of Aaron D. Bundy can help you each and every step of the way. Here's what you need to know before taking legal action to establish paternity.
Establishing Paternity Voluntarily
Confirming paternity doesn't have to involve litigation. Unmarried couples and individuals have two options for establishing paternity voluntarily: submitting to genetic testing or signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP).
Taking a paternity test is as simple as having the inside of your cheek swabbed and then waiting for the results to come back from the lab. Despite being relatively quick and easy, the importance of undergoing genetic testing in the early stages of establishing paternity simply can't be overstated—especially if there's any question about whether you're actually the child's father. If any doubt exists, a paternity test is vital.
Should you and the child's mother opt for an AOP, you can sign it at the hospital when the baby is born, or at the Vital Records Division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, any county health department, or any local child support office at your convenience. An AOP waives the right to future genetic testing, so make sure you're certain before you sign.
Oklahoma Paternity Lawsuits
If you and the child's mother can't agree on paternity—or even genetic testing—either of you can file a paternity lawsuit. You, your child's mother, and your respective attorneys can settle the case at any time. However, if you can't reach an agreement, a judge may order a paternity test to determine whether you are the child's biological and legal father. Once your paternity is established and the judge has issued a formal order, you and your attorney can also petition the court to make determinations regarding custody, visitation, child support, and health care coverage.
Reasons for Establishing Paternity
There are a number of excellent reasons why fathers should jump through the legal hoops necessary to establish paternity, including:
- You can ensure your child's needs are met by paying child support, and contributing to their medical and educational costs
- You can be involved in making decisions for your child
- You can ask a judge to order custody and visitation
- Your child has the chance to form relationships with relatives on your side of the family
- Your name will be included on your child's birth certificate
- Your child can qualify for Social Security, medical insurance, and other benefits through you
- Your child will have a better understanding of their family medical history
Need Help Establishing Paternity and Fighting for Your Parental Rights? You've Come to the Right Firm
When unmarried parties who share children are on good terms, going through the trouble to establish paternity may not seem necessary, especially when both parents are living together and contributing financially—but life can come at you fast. Things can change in the blink of an eye and when a once-happy relationship deteriorates, fathers who haven't taken the time to establish paternity can find themselves without legal rights to their own children. Don't let this happen to you. Whether you've just recently become a father and want to protect your rights or are dealing with the aftermath of a broken relationship with your child's mother, our attorneys can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a private consultation.