What are the pros and cons of establishing paternity?

This section applies to you only if you have never legally named the father of your child or children."Establishing paternity" is the formal term for using the court system to name the legal father or for using the Acknowledgment of Paternity process to name the legal father.

There are some good reasons to establish paternity:

  • If the father dies or becomes disabled, your children may be eligible for Social Security or other dependent benefits,
  • The children may be able to inherit from the father or the father's family, and
  • Your children may have access to a more complete medical history.

If you are a domestic violence victim, the down side of establishing paternity is that it could open you and your children up to contact with the abuser. If you fear contact would be dangerous to you and your child, then you may want to be excused from the requirement to establish paternity. To do this when you get TANF or medical assistance, you must claim "good cause not to cooperate."

Be aware that the law allows the biological father of a child to claim paternity and ask the court to order paternity testing to see if he is, in fact, the father. You may want to consult an attorney to discuss your options. You can call the Northwest Justice Center's Coordinated Legal Education and Referral (CLEAR) line at 1-888-201-1014 for information.