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How to establish paternity as an unmarried father in Maryland

You can be a loving and devoted father even if you never marry the mother of your children. Unfortunately, not having a marriage license can complicate your desire to assert your parental rights.

There are many benefits to establishing yourself as the father of a child. You will benefit because you have the right to seek visitation and shared custody with your child. Your child will benefit because most studies indicate a positive relationship with both parents is developmentally beneficial for children. It can also help in the future because your child will have access to your family medical history.

Finally, establishing paternity allows for you to fulfill parental responsibilities via child support as well. If you want to take an active role in the life of your child, there are some steps you can take in Maryland to establish yourself as the father.

An Affidavit of Parentage allows the mother to name you

After the birth of a child, the mother has the option of signing an Affidavit of Parentage while she is in the hospital after delivery. Filling out this form means that the father's name can be on the birth certificate. It is also possible for the mother to complete this document at a later time and ask for you to sign it.

The important thing to understand is that an Affidavit of Parentage is a voluntary document. Neither you nor the mother can be compelled to sign such a document. The good news is that you have until your child turns 18 to use an affidavit to establish yourself as the father. If the mother is in any way uncertain about who the father may be or she does not wish to acknowledge you as the parent, an affidavit may not be the best option for you.

You can ask the courts to step in and order testing

There are many circumstances in which you may be uncertain as to whether or not you are the father or the mother may not want to name you as the father of the child. Regardless of the reasons, if you find yourself unable to convince the mother to acknowledge you as the father, your best option may be to get genetic testing.

The Child Support Administration can ask both parents and child to submit to testing. Genetic tests are simple and relatively accurate. In general, a father will find that he has less than 1 percent window of error on a test that establishes him as the father. This test will then help you in your attempt to establish your parental rights. Once the courts have acknowledged you as the father, you can seek visitation or shared custody of your child.

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