In Louisiana, when parents are married and have a baby together, they have legal parental rights and responsibilities to the child. The parenting rights are immediate and equal from the moment the child is born. The same does not hold true for unmarried parents. When parents have a child outside of wedlock, a father may only have rights once he has established paternity.
How can an unmarried father establish paternity?
The aim of establishing paternity is to explicitly determine a biological and legal link between the child and the father, thus giving the father rights to his child. Here are ways an unmarried father can establish paternity:
- A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (AOP): Both parents can sign the AOP in the hospital at the time of the child’s birth. The father and mother’s names will be on the child’s birth certificate after the hospital submits the AOP form with the notarized signatures and birth record to the Vital Records Registry. However, parents may also complete the AOP at another time after the child’s birth, but that will not be as easy.
- A court order: A mother, child, father or even a lawyer can bring a paternity action to court to order the father to submit to genetic testing. A mother may want to get a court order when they wish to obtain child support. A father might pursue a court order to receive physical and legal custody rights.
If the court requests the father to submit to genetic testing, the parties involved can accept the results and settle. However, the parties involved may have to go to trial when disputes arise. The court will then decide if the father is the legal and biological father.
Establishing your rights to your child
Albeit the relationship between you and the mother did not work out as planned, you are still the father of your child. You and your child are bound by blood and DNA. You have a right to your child and the right to fight for that right.