The process of establishing paternity in Maryland generally occurs when an unmarried mother gives birth. If the mother is married, there is a rebuttable presumption that her husband is the father of their child. This article focuses on how unmarried biological parents can establish parental rights through an Affidavit of Parentage. With paternity, there are various emotional and financial aspects required to adequately raise a child. Here, the Bel Air attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss child custody, parental rights, and support during and after the process of establishing paternity in Maryland.

Understanding an Affidavit of Parentage

For two unmarried individuals in Maryland, an affidavit of parentage is a voluntary way the biological parents can legally establish paternity. If initiated soon after the child’s birth, this can come at little or no charge. Created by the Department of Human Services, this affidavit allows the biological father’s name to be added to the birth certificate once signed. In addition, this document can be signed up until the child’s 18th birthday but the biological father has the right to request genetic testing before agreeing to sign. As stated previously, this is a completely voluntary form of establishing paternity, and should only be signed if the child’s paternity has been confirmed. There is a way to rescind an affidavit within 60 days of the original signature. If more than 60 days have passed an action must be filed with the court to rescind the affidavit, however, this is only successful in certain circumstances even when it is often later proven that the father who signed an affidavit of parentage was actually not the biological father of the child.  

Additional Routes to Establishing Paternity

If an Affidavit of Parentage is not signed, the next steps in establishing paternity begin with genetic testing. If a father is looking to prove or disprove his paternity, he can petition the court to be able to take a DNA test to confirm his relationship with the child. If a mother is not in close contact with the alleged father, she can go to the local office of child support enforcement and give information such as a physical description, last known place of work, social security number and date of birth of the father in order to file a formal complaint. In the case an individual refuses to take a paternity test, a court order can be filed and eventually taken to trial. If the test comes back that the alleged father is a 97.3% match or higher, then a hearing can be scheduled to ultimately determine paternity. For mothers looking to establish paternity, keep records of any digital or written communication that discusses potential paternity of your child with the individual in question, as these documents can be used in court proceedings. Once the paternity is decided by the court, both biological parents can then be liable for child support for their minor child if court-ordered.

Why Either Party Should Establish Paternity

Both parties should work to establish paternity to bring financial and emotional benefits to all members of the family. If two individuals are not married, the father may have obligations to support the child financially, bringing relief to the mother once paternity is established. Furthermore, signing the affidavit can allow for extended visitation and custody decisions if the parents are no longer together. Finally, establishing paternity can give your child access to medical records from both sides of the family if needed, and bring long-term benefits such as social security, medical benefits, and monetary inheritance. Not only does establishing paternity bring tangible benefits to a child, but can allow for relationship building and stronger communication between family members to make decisions that are in the child’s best interest. 

See How the Family Law Attorneys at Rodier Family Law Can Help

If you or a loved one is in the process of establishing paternity or attempting to disprove paternity, consider seeking legal help to aid both you and your child. Understanding the scope of an Affidavit of Parentage can ensure that both parties are willing and able to take full responsibility for the child. However, if the alleged father of your child is not currently active in your life, legal action can be taken to provide potential financial relief for your family. To learn more about how the child custody and support attorneys at Rodier Family Law can help you,  contact our Bel Air office today.