When you and the mother of your children are a married couple, the law presumes that you are the father of your children. You automatically have a legal relationship with them without you having to take any steps to confirm it. 

However, if you have never married the mother of your children and the two of you eventually split up, you need to establish legal paternity of your children, if you have not already, to claim any parental rights, such as custody. There are several different ways to establish the legal relationship. 

DNA testing

DNA testing confirms that you are the biological father of a child. It is usually only necessary when there is a question about paternity. It involves taking samples of your DNA and the child’s and comparing the two through laboratory testing to look for similarities. Often, this involves collecting buccal cells from the inside of your cheek and from the child’s. A DNA test can also involve blood samples. Testing is up to 99.9% accurate. 

Legal paperwork

The only time DNA testing is necessary is when paternity is in dispute. As long as you and the mother know for sure that you are the father, you can establish paternity without having to have a test by filling out legal paperwork to confirm the relationship and have you listed on the child’s birth certificate as the father. It is easiest to do this at the time of the child’s birth, but if your child is older and you have not established paternity, it is not too late to fill out the necessary paperwork. 

In many cases, establishing paternity is not a dramatic scene as it is on television. Nevertheless, it is an important step that affects your rights as a parent and your relationship with your children.