Rights and Responsibilities of Unmarried Parents
Unmarried parents who have a child have a number of legal rights and responsibilities under Maryland family law. When the child is born, both parents can sign an “affidavit of parentage.” If you are sure you are the father of the child and sign an affidavit of parentage, you formally establish your parental relationship to the child including the responsibility of financial support and the rights of custody and/or visitation. If you and the mother agree that you are the father of the child signing the affidavit of parentage will save time and money by avoiding court action to establish a parental relationship.
If you are not sure you are the father of the child, you should consult a Maryland family law attorney before signing an affidavit of parentage. Once you have signed the affidavit of parentage you formally establish your relationship as the father of the child and become obligated to provide financial support for the child.
A prospective father, who signs the affidavit but later decides he is not the father of the child, can rescind (cancel) the affidavit. Within the first 60 days after signing of the affidavit, you may sign a Rescission Form for Affidavit of Parentage in the presence of a notary. If the parents do not sign the original Affidavit of Parentage on the same day, the 60 days starts to run from the date the last party signed. Once 60 days have passed, the Affidavit can only be nullified by court order. To get the court to nullify the affidavit, one of the following situations must apply:
• Fraud (you were lied to or deceived)
• Duress (you were forced to sign)
• Material Mistake of Fact (you were told in error that a DNA test confirmed you as the father)
A party who wishes to nullify an Affidavit of Parentage after 60 days will likely need a qualified Maryland family law attorney to prove fraud, duress or mistake of fact.
When paternity of the father is in dispute, a paternity action is the first step to establishing the rights and responsibilities of the mother or father. Either a father or mother may initiate a paternity action. If there is a dispute as to the child’s father, the mother must initiate a paternity action to determine the other party is the father and to obtain the right to child support from the child’s father. A father may either demand or be required to take a paternity test. The paternity test is a non-invasive DNA test, which involves a swab of the inside of the cheek of the mother, father and child.
Once you are declared the father after the DNA test you will have the responsibility to pay child support. You will also have the right to request custody and/or visitation of the child. If you are an unmarried parent who needs a Maryland family law attorney to establish a parental relationship, click here.