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Real men acknowledge paternity for their children

To get the best start in life, children need both parents involved. But all too often, children's fathers remain uninvolved in their lives because paternity was never established.

When a couple is married and the woman gets pregnant, the husband is deemed to be the putative father. However, when an unmarried couple have a baby together, the child doesn't have a legal dad until his or her parents step up and establish paternity officially.

Sometimes a man will be a father in every way but the one that counts legally. He loves the child, provides necessities and discipline and is there for those special milestones and birthdays. Yet until and unless he formally acknowledges paternity for the child, he is doing his offspring a great disservice.

If an unmarried couple's relationship goes south, the child is left without parental support from his father if paternity is in dispute or has never been established. Similarly, if the father suddenly dies, the child is unable to inherit or to draw government benefits without first going through the courts to prove that the deceased man was the biological father.

There are other psychosocial benefits to children having their fathers' names listed on their birth certificates. It gives them a clear sense of identity and keeps them from wondering just who their father was. It can also open the door to positive relationships with extended family members on the paternal side of the family.

When children know who their fathers are, they can learn about the medical history on that side of the family. They can also discover their true family lineage and share that knowledge with future generations down the line.

Establishing paternity is the first step toward obtaining a child support order from the courts and determining custody and visitation rights for the father. Unless the mother is married to the child's father, she is presumed to be the custodial parent until a court determines otherwise.

If you are seeking child support but have yet to establish paternity for your child, a family law attorney may be able to assist you with this matter.

Source: mass.gov, "Two Parents," accessed July 29, 2016

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