If a man is not married to the mother of a child, he is not liable for support until paternity is established. Paternity is the legal finding that a man is the father of a child, and in some cases, proof of a man's outstanding claim to be the legal father. Establishing paternity can have benefits for both the child and the parents.
First, the child will know for sure who his or her father is and where he comes from. Children also benefit because they have access to their father's medical histories. If a health issue is present in a father, it may be worth screening for or treating in a child as soon as possible. The parents benefit because they will know that they have each contributed to the development of their child to the best of their ability.
With paternity established, the child will now have two parents who will contribute to its financial needs. This may help provide everything that the child needs and represents his or her best interests. Paternity may be established voluntarily, through genetic testing or through legal action. Voluntary measures include acknowledging paternity at the hospital when the child is born or at any other time after that. Fathers are urged not to sign any paternity declarations prior to genetic testing if there are doubts about paternity.
In any case involving paternity or child custody, a father's rights are important. An attorney may be helpful in establishing that a man is the father of a child or prove that he is not the father of a given child. Either way, a proper resolution can make it easier for both the adults and child to find closure.