Learn how to establish paternity and why it can benefit you and your child in New Hampshire.
Parenthood can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. But sometimes, parents find themselves going the road alone. Establishing paternity can help make parenthood a partnership and benefit you as a parent by providing you with financial support or the opportunity to exercise visitation with your child. This article provides an overview of paternity and the process of establishing paternity in New Hampshire. If you have additional questions about paternity after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Paternity equals fatherhood under the law. If paternity has been established in New Hampshire, either a state agency or a court has declared a certain individual to be a child's father. However, paternity can also be established voluntarily through an agreement by the parents. This process only requires that the child's parents sign an "Acknowledgment of Paternity" form and file it with the Department of Health. Both methods are discussed in detail below.
In cases where a child is conceived outside of marriage (or more than 10 months after the mother becomes divorced or widowed) paternity must be established either voluntarily or by court order through a paternity action.
By signing a "Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity" form, parents can avoid the cost and time involved with a paternity case in court. A voluntary acknowledgment must be signed in the presence of a notary and filed with the Department of Health.
By signing an acknowledgment, both the mother and father agree that they are the parents of the child. Once this form is completed and filed, the father's name can be added to the child's birth certificate. It is a complicated process to change or retract a voluntary acknowledgment once it's filed. Some parents may decide to obtain genetic testing before signing an acknowledgment.
In some cases, parents don't agree on the identity of a child's father, or the mother may not know which of two or more partners is the father of her child. In these cases, a paternity action can be brought. Any of the following may bring a paternity case:
Genetic testing may be required by the court if the alleged father continues to deny paternity or the child's mother cannot decide which individual is the father of her child.
In New Hampshire, a paternity action may be filed by the child at any time. Any of the other individuals listed above can bring a paternity action any time before the child's 21st birthday. Although a paternity action may be brought while the mother is pregnant, a court won't make a decision on paternity until the child is born.
The primary reason to establish paternity is to provide your child with stability and give him or her the legal right to emotional and financial support from both parents.
A finding of paternity allows a custodial mother to request that the child's father contribute child support and provide health insurance coverage. Child support can help cover the costs of basic living expenses, such as clothing, food and shelter for the child. Under certain circumstances, 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.
Being identified as the legal father of a child results in rights and responsibilities to the child. Once paternity is established, fathers are entitled to request some forms of custody, including visitation rights and the right to have a say in major educational or medical decisions regarding his child's welfare.
In most cases, developing a healthy, emotional bond with both parents helps cultivate a child's sense of identity and security. Paternity also gives the child the legal right to inherit from both parents and may entitle the child to Social Security or veteran's benefits upon a parent's death. Finally, the child will have the right to access important medical history from both parents, which could be important in determining his or her own medical conditions and health care needs.
For more information about voluntarily establishing paternity in New Hampshire, click here.
For more information and assistance on filing a paternity case, see the self-help section of the New Hampshire Superior Court website at http://www.courts.state.nh.us/superior/index.htm.
You can read the full text of the New Hampshire statutes relating to paternity at N.H. Rev. Stat. T. XII, Ch. 168.
If you have other questions about establishing paternity in New Hampshire, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.