A biological father and a legal father are not the same thing. A child’s biological father is the man who provided genetic material to conceive the child. A legal father is a man with parental rights to the child. In many cases, the same man is both a legal and biological father. In some scenarios, a biological father has to establish his paternity in order to become his child’s legal father.
When a married woman gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the child’s biological father and automatically becomes the child’s legal father. When a new mother is not married, her child has no legal father until the child’s paternity is established.
Why Establishing Paternity is Necessary
Without establishing paternity, a man cannot have parental rights to his biological child. Having parental rights grants an individual the following:
- The right to seek custody of a child;
- The right to seek visitation with a child;
- The right to establish a child support order. This goes two ways – as a legal parent, a father can establish a child support order or he can be named in one established by the child’s mother and required to make payments;
- The ability to claim a child as a dependent on his tax returns and insurance policies; and
- The right to be informed if the child is placed for adoption and be involved in any adoption proceedings.