More and more children are being raised in single-parent households. Sometimes, a father’s lack of involvement is due to his own choices, while in other situations, the father would like to be more involved in the child’s life, but the child’s mother is preventing him from doing so. In both situations, establishing patternty will be essential to protecting important rights and enforcing responsibilities.
This article provides a general overview of paternity in Nebraska. If you still have questions about paternity after reading this article, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Paternity is the legal status of fatherhood. If a child is born during a marriage, the mother's husband is presumed to be the father of the child. When parents are not married at the time of a child’s birth, paternity can be established one of two ways in Nebraska. Both methods are explained below.
Establishing paternity can be accomplished through a voluntary process between the parents. Alternatively, if the parents can't agree, then a judge can determine paternity through a court proceeding and DNA testing.
The simplest and often most cost-effective way to establish paternity in Nebraska is by both parents signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. By signing this document before a notary, both the mother and father agree who the child’s father is.
A completed Voluntary Acknowledgment form must be submitted to the Department of Health and Vital Statistics, so the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. With an acknowledgment of paternity come rights and responsibilities for the father, which will be discussed below.
In cases where the mother and father can’t agree to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, the child’s mother or the man who believes he’s the father of the child can file a paternity petition (written request) in court. A child’s guardian, such as a grandparent, or the Department of Social Services may also file a paternity action under certain circumstances.
Once a paternity petition is filed, the court will require the mother, child and alleged father to undergo genetic testing. If an alleged father refuses to cooperate, the court may consider his noncooperation as evidence of paternity.
A paternity action must be filed before the child’s 18th birthday, unless the child files the petition which can be filed at any time.
With the role and legal status as "father" come both rights and responsibilities to the child. The primary reason for establishing paternity is to benefit the child’s best interests by giving them the legal right to emotional and financial support from both parents.
For the mother and the child, an order of paternity will allow the mother to receive child support and medical insurance from the child’s father to assist in clothing, feeding and otherwise caring for her child. A mother may also ask the court to award her medical costs associated with the child’s birth and past due child support up to 4 years after the child’s birth.
Additionally, by establishing paternity, the mother and child can also obtain information about the father’s medical history, which can be essential information if the child ever becomes ill or needs information about his or her genetic background.
For fathers, establishment of paternity allows the father to seek custody (subject to a court's review of the best interest of the child). This may include both visitation with the child and possibly the right to be involved in making educational or medical decisions on behalf of the child.
Click here to learn more about child custody in Nebraska.
For children, the child may be able to receive inheritance benefits from parents including Social Security and veteran’s benefits. Also, they will often benefit by having both parents involved in their life.
The Nebraska Court System maintains an informative website to help those who want to file a paternity action on their own. Go to www.supremecourt.ne.gov. If you have other questions about establishing paternity in Nebraska, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
You can read the full text of the law on paternity in Nebraska in the Nebraska Revised Statutes, Chapter 43, Article 14.