Biology and the law do not necessarily coincide when it comes to determining who the father of a child is. The law says that the man who is married to the mother is the father. If she is not married, then the child does not have a legal father until the parents fill out the correct paperwork.
Even if there is no question about who the biological father is, the child does not have access to many benefits until the father fulfills the legal requirements.
According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, an unmarried father has a number of options for establishing paternity. Hospitals and birthing centers have a paternity acknowledgment form available so that parents can take care of it when the child is born. Parents may also find paternity acknowledgment forms at a DCSS or Vital Records office, and they may file them through an administrative agency or the court system.
If one of the parents does not cooperate in signing and filing the paperwork, the DCSS may refer the case to the court system for a paternity hearing. Often, genetic testing is a necessary part of the process.
A child automatically becomes eligible for a number of financial benefits when he or she has a legal father. Child support is the one that may come to mind first, but others include:
- Benefits from Social Security and other programs
- Survivor benefits
- Inheritance rights
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
Knowing their biological father also provides children with a sense of identity and allows them to access their medical history.
The U.S. Administration for Children & Families notes that when fathers establish paternity, they are more likely to be involved in their children’s lives, and this creates emotional and social ties between them that foster healthy development.