Paternity Laws Focus On Identifying Both Parents

Under Maryland law, a child born out of wedlock has no legal father. While the birth certificate is legal with only the name of the mother, a biological father may establish paternity by signing an affidavit of parentage at the hospital or by signing the form at a later date and sending it to the Division of Vital Records. This method of establishing paternity may be used until the child's 18th birthday.

A biological father also may establish paternity by requesting a paternity test.

If a mother receives Maryland Temporary Cash Assistance payments, a child support case will automatically be referred by the Department of Social Services to the mother's local Child Support Enforcement Agency office. If the mother does not receive state assistance but wishes to pursue child support against the father, she can file for child support and the local child support office will pursue paternity for her as well.

Other benefits from the father may be available for the child if paternity is established. These may include social security, VA benefits, life insurance, health insurance and inheritance.

A mother may want to keep the biological father out of the child's life, and if the father does not assert any parental rights or attempt to establish paternity, the mother may be successful. A mother may be hesitant to name the father for many reasons.

The father may be abusive, violent, or have a history of drug or alcohol addiction, and the mother may view withholding his identity to protect the child. Then again, the mother could be shutting him out to be vindictive or because she fears custody issues.

A reluctant father may not want the responsibility of a child, may not want to pay child support or may have concerns that he is not the biological father. Conversely, a man may want to assert his paternity rights to make sure that his child is provided for if something happens to him, and he may want visitation or even custody rights.

The purpose of Maryland's paternity law is to protect the best interests of the child and to try to give children born of unmarried parents the same rights to support, care and education as children born to parents who were married. For those mothers or potential fathers facing paternity issues, contacting an attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights, and the rights of the child, are protected.