The importance of establishing paternity

For mothers and fathers alike, there are few things as important as establishing the paternity of a child. If there is any question at all, it is crucial that you clarify and document parentage so that your legal rights can be maintained. There are several standards in South Dakota that dictate the process by which paternity is identified, and you can better understand what to expect by reviewing these four important points.

Defend your legal rights as a parent

There are a number of legal rights every parent has, but if your paternity has not been established, you will likely have difficulty claiming any of them. In general, a parent is entitled to make major decisions regarding the life, future and care of a child. Parents are also authorized to act on behalf of their child and direct medical care as well as education. These and other rights can only be claimed by a father whose paternity has been proven and acknowledged.

Maintain involvement in your child's life

Most parents want to be involved in their children's life and watch them grow up. In some cases, however, a vindictive partner may take steps to prevent you from doing so. In such situations, it is absolutely essential that you establish your paternity to pursue visitation or custody. Often in cases like these, doing so is the only way to establish a role in your child's life and ensure you are able to maintain your relationship with her or him.

Voluntary and involuntary paternity establishment

In South Dakota, paternity may be established in one of two ways. In cases where both the mother and father are in agreement, it will typically be voluntarily established by both parents signing an affividavit naming the father. If a dispute exists, however, the child, mother and presumed father may be subject to genetic tests that will determine the parentage of the child. This is referred to as involuntary paternity establishment, but it is a necessity in many cases.

Fulfill your parental obligations

In cases such as the aforementioned one in which paternity must be involuntarily established, it may be important to maintaining the child's rights. For child support purposes, for example, this may be an essential step. Paternity is not only about protecting parents' rights. It is also imperative for the protection of the child.

Whether you are fighting for a role in your child's life or fighting to hold your child's father responsible, you should know your legal rights. Contacting a lawyer may help you better understand what your next step should be.

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