Find out how to establish paternity and why it's important for your child.
It's devastating when parents begin a relationship with the hopes of raising a child together, but their best laid plans just don't work out. A mother may find herself abandoned by the child's father. Or, the father may be willing and able to step up as a new dad, but finds the mother has put up roadblocks to visitation. In such cases, it's important to establish paternity, which can benefit parents and their children.
This article provides an overview of paternity and general instructions on how to establish it in New Mexico. If you have questions about paternity after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Paternity is the legal status of fatherhood. Establishing paternity in New Mexico means that a court or a government agency has determined an individual to be a child's father. However, paternity can also be established voluntarily by the parents. This can be as simple as signing an affidavit and filing it with the Department of Health.
A child born during a marriage or within 300 days following the mother becoming divorced or widowed, is presumed to be the child of that husband. When a child is conceived outside of marriage, paternity will need to be established either voluntarily or by court order through a paternity action.
By voluntarily acknowledging paternity, parents can avoid the headache of filing a paternity case. Parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment before a notary and agree that they are the parents of the child. Once the completed Acknowledgment is filed with the Department of Health, the father's name can be added to the child's birth certificate. It is very hard to change a Voluntary Acknowledgment once filed, so parents can submit to genetic testing before signing if they want to be sure.
If parents can't agree on who the child's father is, a paternity case can be filed in the New Mexico court. The child's mother, the man who believes he's the child's father, a guardian or the department of social services (if the child is receiving state assistance) may file a paternity case in New Mexico.
If the mother is unsure which of two or more persons is the father or the alleged father still denies paternity, the court may require the mother, child and alleged father to submit to genetic testing. An alleged father that won't submit to genetic testing may be deemed the father by his noncooperation.
A paternity case may be filed at any time before the child's 21st birthday.
The legal status of father brings both rights and responsibilities with regard to a child. A child benefits from knowing and developing an emotional bond with both parents. An important reason to establish paternity is to help your child succeed and find security in knowing his or her parents. Once paternity has been established, children have the legal right to inherit from both parents and may also be entitled to Social Security or veteran's benefits upon a parent's death.
For a mother, establishing paternity can also mean obtaining financial support in raising a child. This can be in the form of child support, both prospective and past, and medical expenses associated with the child's birth. Also, through a paternity action, the mother can obtain important information about the father's medical history, which can be essential in providing proper medical care the child and especially, if her child falls ill or is facing serious medical conditions.
For a father, establishing paternity can be the path to forming a strong bond and relationship with his child. Paternity means responsibilities, but it also means rights. For some fathers it can open the door to child custody, which may include regular visitation with their child and the right to have a say in major medical and educational decisions.
Click here for more information on child custody and the best interests of the child in New Mexico.
You can read the full text of the law on paternity in New Mexico in the New Mexico Statutes, Chapter 40, Article 11.
If you have other questions about establishing paternity in New Mexico, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.