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Legal Significance of Paternity

A child born to a married couple is considered legitimate in the eyes of the law. However, the fact that a person's name appears on a birth certificate is not conclusive proof of paternity. Since there is no requirement that a father sign a birth certificate, a mother may list anyone whom she believes is, or wants to be, the father.

The significance of a paternity determination is multifold:

  • For a father who resists parentage, it means that he will now be held accountable for his share of support and responsibility.
  • For a father who wishes to establish that he is the biological parent, he can do so with relative ease of procedure. Importantly, if the child is born out of wedlock, consent from the biological father is needed before the mother can give the child up for adoption.
  • For a mother, paternity determinations secure financial support as well as custody and visitation rights.
  • For a child, at stake is the right to shelter and aid, as well as the emotional and psychological relief in knowing whom his or her father is.

Paternity also secures the right to inherit, the right to access personal information about the known health risks and profiles of the paternal family, and the right to sue for harm or death of the father, resulting in loss to the child. Likewise, a child for whom parentage has been established may also be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits resulting from the father's death, or other dependent-based governmental assistance.

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