Within the tapestry of family life, many threads weave together to create a mosaic of important relationships, love, and care. While all families have their own unique patterns and dynamics, there exists a deeply significant thread that can sometimes be overlooked – the father-child relationship. While the concept of paternity might seem like not much more than a legal formality, it’s important to remember that paternity reaches far beyond court orders and paperwork. Paternity represents the fundamental rights a father has in a child’s life. It is an essential aspect of the child’s financial and emotional well-being, as well as their identity.
So, what exactly is paternity?
Simply put, paternity is the legal acknowledgment of a man as the father of a child or children. In New Mexico, a child born to unmarried parents does not automatically ensure the father has parental rights or responsibilities of that child. In fact, paternity must be officially established in order for the father to have those rights and hold legal responsibilities for providing financial support to the child. It’s important to note that if the father’s name is added to the certificate at the time of birth, this automatically establishes them as the legal father.
In this article, we will explore the most pertinent reasons for establishing paternity. If you are in the process of pursuing paternity rights, our team of diligent and compassionate lawyers at Sutherland Family Law are here to support you and make sure your rights and interests are protected every step of the way.
Top 3 Reasons to Establish Paternity
1. Child custody and visitation rights
In custody hearings or divorce proceedings, having paternity established is critical when determining paternity rights. Without establishing paternity, you risk losing the opportunity to gain child custody or visitation rights. When both parents are legally recognized as biological parents to a child, they assume equal rights to seek custody or visitation rights under the circumstances of separation. Additionally, paternity allows the non-custodial parent to actively participate in making decisions about the child’s life and their upbringing. Plus, it allows the father to have an even more meaningful relationship with their child.
When it serves the best interest of the child, New Mexico family courts are typically inclined to split custody between the father and mother. However, fathers are only able to petition the court for physical and legal custody of his child when he has established paternity.
2. Financial contributions and child support
Paternity has a direct link to financial support obligations. When a father has paternity rights, the court can order the non-custodial parent to provide financial support for the child and make sure the child’s financial needs are adequately met. Child support is determined based on various factors, such as the child’s needs, the income of both parents, and the parental time arrangements.
Once paternity is established, both the mother and/or the father can seek child support and can financially contribute to the child’s welfare.
3. Parental rights and responsibilities – access to medical records
Establishing paternity grants both parents equal rights and responsibilities to the child. This includes the right to make decisions about the child’s healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and other significant aspects of their life. Paternity initiates the responsibility to provide emotional support, a safe environment, and guidance for the child, ensuring that both parents are legally recognized and have a voice in important decisions regarding their child’s life.
It is important to note that when paternity becomes established, the child and the mother may be able to access important information related to the father’s medical history.
How to Establish Paternity in New Mexico
In New Mexico, you have a few options when it comes to establishing paternity. This includes signing an affidavit or getting a court order. A court order may be necessary when the paternity of a child is disputed.
Under the circumstance that the paternity of a child is undisputed, an individual can affirm that he is the father of the child by signing an affidavit. The affidavit serves as a formal document claiming paternity under the oath of the court. Signing the affidavit can be done at the hospital at the time of birth, or it can be signed at the New Mexico Child Support Enforcement office.
Alternatively, getting a court order to establish paternity may be necessary when the paternity of a child is disputed. In this case, the potential father or the mother of the child can request an official court order that involves DNA testing to either confirm or deny paternity. The DNA tests usually involve swabbing the father and child’s cheeks for saliva samples.
Putative Father Registry: What You Need to Know
A putative father refers to a man believed to be a child’s biological father, but his paternity has not been legally established. Simply put, the Putative Father Registry in New Mexico is a confidential database where unmarried men can voluntarily register their information if they believe they may have fathered a child. When they register, they provide notice to the state that they may be the biological father to a child, ensuring that they will be notified of any legal proceedings regarding the child, such as termination of parental rights or adoption.
Notably, registration should happen as soon as the putative father becomes aware of the potential pregnancy or within 10 days of the child’s birth. Registration ensures putative fathers claim the right to participate in legal decisions and potential involvement of the child.
Remember, it is always advisable to consult with a legal professional or attorney for specific guidance regarding the Putative Father Registry. Reach out to our team of experienced family attorneys if you think you might qualify to register with Putative Father Registry for an extra layer of support.
Importance of Establishing Paternity
Making sure you take the proper steps in establishing paternity is essential towards securing a better future for your child. Recognizing the significance of the father-child relationship, granting access to important medical information, and providing financial support are each important factors when considering the child’s well-being, and are fundamental components to paternity rights.
At Sutherland Family Law, we understand the significance of establishing paternity and are committed to guiding families through this process with compassion, expertise, and diligence. Our team of lawyers are here to help you build a brighter future for you and your child, from start to finish. Contact us today to learn more about establishing paternity.