It takes two to bring a new life into the world. While mothers are often seen as the most important person in a child’s life, fathers shouldn’t be disregarded. Just because it is sometimes less clear who fathered a baby is no reason for fathers to have less of a relationship with their children.
The problem is that, in Oregon, it’s necessary to prove paternity in many cases. If you want to develop and maintain your relationship with your children as a father, demonstrating fatherhood might be needed to protect your legal rights. Here’s how you can establish paternity in Oregon and ensure that you can be a part of your child’s life.
The Purpose of Proving Paternity
Paternity is a specific legal concept, not just a fact of nature. It isn’t necessarily granted to the person who actually fathered the kid; instead, it can be given to the person the mother identifies as the father. The person identified as the father has the right to apply for custody and visitation, making paternity very important for anyone who wants to spend time with their children.
If you are not married to the mother of your baby, then it’s not guaranteed that you will be identified as the father automatically. Your child’s mother may not list your name on the birth certificate, or she may declare someone else the father. In either case, this requires you to prove your connection to your child to access the legal rights and responsibilities of fatherhood.
The Rights and Responsibilities of Paternity in Oregon
Proving your fatherhood of your child grants you a wide variety of legal obligations and rights and protects them if anything should happen to their mother. These protections and duties include:
Fathers are entitled to equal custody consideration, but only if they already have proven paternity. Without legal acknowledgment of your relationship with your kid, there is little to no chance that you would be able to gain custody of them.
Custody in Oregon is most often granted to one parent, and they are the only one permitted to make legal decisions for their child. If you want to be able to make choices for your kid, it’s essential to have a proven legal relationship already in place.
Even if you aren’t the custodial parent, you are still entitled to visitation if you are identified as the father. The legal right to spend time with your children is only guaranteed if you can prove that you are related.
If you have proven fatherhood and have custody of your children, then you are likely eligible to receive child support from their mother. On the other hand, if you do not have custody, you may need to pay support instead.
If you want to provide for your children even after you’re gone, proven fatherhood gives them the right to inherit from you without a will in place. This can be valuable if you have a life insurance policy or if you’re in a dangerous career.
Finally, even if you aren’t paying support or concerned about inheritance, your link to your kids may make them eligible for certain government benefits, such as college support if you’re in the military.
The Process of Proving Paternity in Oregon
To prove paternity, you have two choices: you can either work with your child’s mother or take your case through the court system.
The most straightforward choice is to work with the other parent. If you are not married to the mother of your baby, you can communicate with her and sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.” Both you and the mother must sign this acknowledgment for it to be valid. You can sign it while at the hospital where the baby is born or after you leave. If you do sign the acknowledgment after leaving the hospital, you will need to get it notarized as well. Either way, once you file the document, your name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.
In some cases, this isn’t possible. One such situation would be when your child’s mother was married to someone else. The state of Oregon assumes that any baby born during or within 300 days of the end of a marriage was fathered by the husband. If your child’s mother was married to a man within 300 days of the birth, then it’s likely that her husband will be granted paternity. In this case, you will need to dispute your child’s fatherhood through the legal system.
Similarly, if the mother does not want to cooperate with you, you will need to go through the courts. To start this process, you will need to file an “Application for Child Support Services” through the Oregon Child Support Program (OCSP). This will trigger the OCSP to initiate a legal action on your behalf. From there, you can work with your legal representation to keep the process moving.
Frequently, if your baby’s mother is not cooperative, you will need to undergo a DNA test to definitively identify whether you are related to the kid in question. If you are related, then you will be added to the birth certificate, just as if you had signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity. However, if the test comes back negative, then you are unrelated to the kid and therefore ineligible for court-determined paternity.
Your Children Deserve You
Growing up is hard to do. Children with more supportive adults in their lives are much more likely to grow and thrive in life. Proving your connection to your kids gives them a better chance at success. If you’re working on getting legal confirmation of your relationship with your child, you’re taking a step that will almost certainly improve their life forever.
The process of proving fatherhood isn’t simple, of course. If the mother is not interested in cooperating with you, it may be necessary to work with the legal system to prove paternity. Our expert fathers’ rights attorneys can help you get reconnected with your kids sooner rather than later; reach out today to discuss your case.