Not every child in North Carolina is born to married parents. While there are many reasons why an unmarried couple’s relationship does not last, if they are parents and the mother wants to pursue child support or the father wants to pursue visitation, they will need to establish paternity. There are two ways to establish paternity: voluntary acknowledgment or through a court order.
Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
Unmarried parents can voluntarily establish paternity when their child is born. The child’s father can provide identifying information and sign an Affidavit of Parentage at the hospital. Once filed with Vital Records, this establishes paternity, and the mother and father’s names will be on the child’s birth certificate. This is often a preferred choice if there is no question about the child’s parentage.
Establishing paternity through a court order
If there are questions about the child’s parentage, the mother and purported father can go to court for an order establishing paternity. Oftentimes the court will order a DNA test to determine paternity. This is generally done through a cheek swab.
DNA tests are extremely accurate and generally leave no question as to whether the purported father is the child’s biological father. This can give both parents peace of mind moving forward, and it provides the court with the evidence needed to establish paternity at a court hearing.
Establishing paternity benefits parents and the child
Establishing paternity allows unmarried parents to pursue their parental rights, and benefits the child as well. A child who knows the identities of both parents can have an improved sense of self, a source of knowledge regarding inheritable health conditions and it can help the child obtain government benefits, insurance benefits and death benefits if necessary. If you want to establish paternity in North Carolina, you may want to discuss your situation with a professional so you can determine the best way to go about it.