The rights of unwed fathers: Establishing paternity in Connecticut

Unwed fathers must establish paternity through an acknowledgement of paternity form or a court order to enact their parental rights towards their children.

When married couples in Connecticut have children, it is generally presumed that the mothers' husbands are the biological fathers. Through this supposition, the father is granted parental rights. However, the identity of a child's father is not assumed in cases when the parents are not married. As such, unwed men must establish paternity in order to be granted their parental rights.

Why establish paternity?

There is a multitude of reasons why unmarried fathers should establish paternity. At the most basic level, it provides a child with a sense of belonging and identity. Additionally, it also allows them the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents, according to the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Until an unwed father has established paternity, he is not able to request child custody or visitation with his child. Furthermore, he does not have a say in vital decisions, such as those regarding his child's upbringing, school or medical treatment.

Children are generally entitled to receive certain types of benefits from both their mothers and fathers. This includes health insurance, benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Disability insurance. Until paternity has been legally established, however, children cannot claim these benefits through their fathers.

Acknowledgement of paternity

Perhaps the easiest way to establish paternity is by completing an acknowledgement of paternity form. According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, this form is a sworn statement that asserts the man named is a child's biological father. This method is typically used when both parents agree on who the child's biological father is. Such forms may be completed in the hospital after a child is born, at the Department of Public Health or at the Department of Social Services.

Court orders

Court orders may also be used to establish paternity for unwed parents. Parents generally go this route when the parents disagree about the identity of a child's biological father or when one parent, or the other, refuses to sign the paternity acknowledgement form. While mothers or the state often start court proceedings for paternity, they may also be initiated by fathers. Often, such orders are accompanied by child custody and visitation orders, as well as orders for financial support.

Before the court can decide paternity matters, evidence must be presented to either prove, or disprove, paternity. As such, DNA tests may be ordered and performed. If a parentage test prove a man is a child's father, the judge will generally issue an adjudication of paternity.

Working with an attorney

While it is of great significance, establishing paternity may be difficult for some unmarried fathers in Connecticut. This is particularly true in cases when a child's paternity is contested. Therefore, unwed fathers may benefit from seeking legal counsel. An attorney may help them understand what rights they have, in addition to their options for establishing paternity and enacting their parental rights.