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The Top 5 Reasons Why Unwed-Parents Must Establish Paternity

"It takes a village to raise a child" is more than an African proverb, and when the village is small and one parent is missing the task becomes even more challenging. Fortunately, being proactive and understanding your rights as a parent will help alleviate any issues that might arise as you take on the role of single parent. Every child has the right to a parent-child relationship with both parents, and all three deserve an opportunity to develop, enjoy and grow in the relationship.

Establishing Paternity

1. Every child has the right to know both parents and have the father's name appear on the birth certificate. Voluntarily establishing paternity is not expensive and does not have to involve an attorney or attorney fees. Both parents may contact the State Department/Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Central Paternity Registry, or the Department of Community Health and request an Affidavit of Paternity. There may be a small fee for filing this document but it will ensure legal paternity is established.

Paternity Testing

2. Paternity testing is a series of genetic tests used to indicate the likelihood that a man is, or is not the biological father of a child. The most common method used today is DNA testing which are 99.9 percent accurate in determining that a man is not the father. The child can be tested at any age, and the DNA test is obtained by rubbing a cotton tipped swab on the inside of the check or DNA can be extracted from blood or other tissues. The court will determine who will pay for the paternity test. Laboratories performing paternity test should be accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).

Financial Security

3. The law requires both parents support their children. This is true even if the pregnancy is unplanned. Children supported by one parent often do not have enough money for their needs. A child support order cannot be established if paternity is not proven.

Survivor & other Benefits

4. Medical and dental insurance may be available through the non-custodial parent's employer, union, or military service. Medical assistance programs may be available through the local and/or state family/child assistance agencies. If something should happen to either parent, the child could qualify for Social Security, pensions, inheritance rights, veterans' benefits and life insurance. Paternity must be established to receive these benefits.

Keep Track of Child Support Information

5. It is imperative that both parents, (the custodial and non-custodial) keep track of parent information, parenting time, (visitations), receipt of child support payments, court ordered or not, names of child support workers, attorney contacts, names of judges/referees, docket/court numbers etc. concerning the child support case. Remember to keep this information in a secure location and let someone you trust know where this information can be found in the event of an emergency.

Detra D. Davis is a writer and Consultant with over 20 years of experience. She is a former Public Health Educator and has taught a number of workshops promoting the importance of establishing paternity and paying child support. Detra may be reached at http://www.supportingourchildren.com or by mail at J. Davis & Associates Publishing, P. O. Box 4935, Cary, North Carolina 27519-4935.

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