According to Louisiana law, when a married couple bears a child, they are legally considered the parents of that child. This implies that they possess certain rights and obligations that are specific to parents. However, things aren’t as straightforward for unmarried couples who have a child together. An unmarried father isn’t regarded as the legal parent of his kid unless he actually establishes paternity. The legal procedure of establishing paternity ensures that the baby’s biological father also becomes the legally recognized father.

What is Paternity Law?

The relationship that establishes the father of a child is known as paternity. It is a biological as well as a legal relationship. Each state has its own system for determining paternity. 

In Louisiana, under the “presumption of paternity,” the spouse of the mother is presumed to be the father of the child if he or she is born while they are married or within 300 days of a divorce decree. Thus, unless separate biological paternity is proven, the mother’s spouse is deemed the biological father.

Presumption of paternity does not apply to children born outside of marriage. When a child is born to an unmarried woman in Louisiana, she is the sole legal parent. This remains true even if the mother and father live together or are in a committed relationship. For unmarried parents, it is necessary to establish paternity. Biological paternity can be proven by blood or tissue (DNA) testing, whereas legal paternity can be established through acknowledgment.

Paternity law and the need for legal action usually ensues when one of the parents files a request with the court to establish or dispute paternity.

Establishing Paternity in Louisiana

Unmarried Louisiana couples with children have two options for establishing paternity: the parents can sign an affidavit of acknowledgment voluntarily, or the paternity of the child can be determined by a district court judge when someone files a paternity lawsuit. 

Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit

An affidavit of acknowledgment is a sworn declaration that legally declares paternity, which implies both parents must sign the acknowledgment affidavit in the presence of a notary public. 

By signing the affidavit, the parents are confirming that the cosigner is the biological and legal father of the child. They are also agreeing that the father may be required to pay child support and that their child is entitled to inherit from the father. 

This affidavit does not grant the father custody rights, as custody rights are retained by the mother. The father, on the other hand, does have certain visitation rights as well as the right to go to court and seek new custody rights.

Signing an acknowledgment of paternity affidavit is generally the simplest method for establishing paternity, but may only work if both parents voluntarily agree. You should not sign the affidavit if you have any doubts or concerns regarding paternity. Instead, exercise your right to genetic testing to determine whether you and the child (or the alleged father and the child) have a DNA relationship. You may request testing at your own expense, or you can ask a court to order it. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Child Support Enforcement division may also be of assistance. 

Establishing Paternity Through Court

Initiating court proceedings is the second way one might establish paternity in Louisiana. The mother, father, child, or a government lawyer for Child Support Enforcement can all file paternity actions in court.

The court will mandate genetic testing should it be requested, and everyone involved must submit to it. The parties have the option of settling the matter at any moment or going to trial. If the case does go to trial, the court will determine whether the alleged father is in fact the legal and biological father of the child. If it is ruled that he is, the court will issue a definitive paternity judgment, confirming paternity and adding the father’s name to the birth certificate.

The court can also make judgments concerning child custody, visitation, and residency as well as evaluate financial responsibilities like child support and medical support.

What Happens After Paternity is Established?

Once paternity is established, both parents’ names will appear on the child’s birth certificate. In addition, the child will have access to both sides of the family’s medical records as well as certain benefits through the father’s Social Security, medical insurance, and other state, federal, and inheritance benefits.

The father’s right to see his kid (visitation) is also secured by signing the affidavit, as is his right to go to court and request increased custody and visitation. If the mother passes away unexpectedly, the father also possesses the ability to take full custody of the child.

Child support is unlikely to be a problem if the father and mother live together. If the parents don’t live together, however, both parents still assume a financial responsibility to care for the child. Both father and mother may be held financially responsible for child support, health insurance, medical bills, and educational expenses.

Whether or not the parents are together, they should both collaborate as a team to make the best possible decisions for their child.

Contact an Experienced Louisiana Paternity Lawyer Today

If you seek to establish paternity in the Bossier City or Shreveport areas, paternity lawyer Michael J. Vergis can assist you. Whether you’re looking to secure the right to visit your children, collect child support, resolve disputed custody claims, or more, we have you covered. Contact the offices of Michael J. Vergis, Bossier family law attorney, for quality legal assistance and advice regarding your case. You can reach us by filling out our online intake form or by calling 318-698-3724 to schedule your consultation today.