When a child is born to a married couple in Maryland, the law assumes that the husband is the father of the child. This means that the father automatically has legal responsibilities toward their child, in addition to the emotional ones they must be providing. For example, knowing who one’s father is gives a sense of stability to the child and the opportunity to develop a relationship with him. Many studies have shown that the presence of a father helps a child’s emotional and intelligence development. So what happens when the child’s father is not the mother’s husband?
Establishing paternity is still possible and highly encouraged in most instances so the child to benefit from the familial relationship, regardless of the relationship between the parents. One way to do this is for the mother to ask the father to voluntarily acknowledge paternity. This means the parent willingly accepts responsibility for their child and agrees to pay child support until the child reaches the age of majority.
Voluntarily establishing paternity is possible in two ways. First of all, the father can be present at the time of birth and sign a Declaration of Paternity. This allows the father’s name to be placed on the birth certificate as well. The second way is to complete an affidavit of paternity at any point after the child’s birth up to the age of majority. If this is done, then the birth certificate would likely have to be altered at a later date.
If the father does not cooperate and willingly establish paternity, then the local Office of Child Support Enforcement would likely have to contacted. The process then includes the mother identifying the father, locating him, giving him the opportunity to voluntarily establish paternity, getting genetic testing completed, and informing the father of the results.
Ideally, a father would not contest his paternity and would want to step up and provide emotional and financial assistance to the mother. unfortunately, this is not always the case. When a mother is struggling to establish paternity for the purposes of child support payments, she might want to consult an experienced attorney to determine her options.