Unmarried couples here in Kentucky who have children may not realize that biology is not automatically recognized under the law for them as it is for married couples. This may not be an issue as long as everything goes well, but at the first sign of trouble, it can quickly become a problem. In order for an unmarried father to have rights to his child, legal fatherhood must be established first.
Most Kentucky fathers have no problem assuming financial responsibility for their children through the payment of child support, and they may believe this is why paternity is needed. However, there is much more to it than that. Establishing paternity gives biological fathers certain legal rights to their children that they would not otherwise automatically receive. Not being able to legally participate in a child’s life would undoubtedly devastate many unwed fathers.
The legal rights that come with successfully establishing paternity are the right to petition for physical custody and visitation. A father also gains the right to legal custody, which means that he can help make decisions that will affect the course of a child’s life, such as where they will go to school, what religion they will practice and more.
If a child suffers from an illness or injury, a father who has not yet established paternity may not have the right to be kept apprised of the child’s condition or to help make decisions regarding his or her health care. The child also does not automatically receive the right to inherit from his or her father, cannot receive veterans and Social Security benefits or gain access to the father’s life or health insurance. The child may also not have access to his or her father’s medical history.
None of these rights and responsibilities come about simply through biology for an unwed father. Establishing legal fatherhood will. Before taking any steps to establish paternity, it would be a good idea for a man to protect his rights since once a man takes legal responsibility for a child, it is not easy to undo.