Child custody and support arrangements in West Virginia can be complicated if you, as a father, are not legally recognized by the state as the father of your child. Under some circumstances, such as having a child out of wedlock, state law might not acknowledge you as your child’s father. Once your relationship is formally established, you can confer important financial and inheritance benefits to your child, even in the event you pass away.
According to the West Virginia Department of Human Resources, a father will have to take steps to establish paternity if his child is not conceived or born within the confines of marriage. Divorce can also complicate matters. A father might have to get paternity established if his child is born or conceived ten months before a marital separation or a divorce. Legal recognition of paternity can occur any moment before a child reaches the age of eighteen.
To establish paternity, a father can complete a Declaration of Paternity Affidavit document. In the event your status as a legal father is disputed, you may request that West Virginia’s Bureau for Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) administer a genetic test to you and all relevant parties. If the test shows a 98 percent probability that you are a father, the BCSE will post a hearing in court to sign off on a support order for your child or children.
With paternity established, the gates are open for your child to receive financial support from you as well as other benefits. FindLaw explains that your child will now be able to learn about your family, such as acquiring genetic information that might reveal hereditary problems that the child could suffer from later in life. Your child will additionally possess the right to inherit from you, and can also seek shelter with you if needed.
Also, with your child a legally recognized next of kin, your child has recourse if something should happen to you. If you are injured or even killed as a result of an accident due to a negligent party, your child may sue that party for damages. Your offspring could also receive money from a workers’ compensation settlement or government benefits that pay out to the survivors of a deceased family member.
The bottom line is that legally recognized paternity is a great benefit to your child. Becoming a legally recognized father can open many doors for your offspring and give you more opportunities to provide support and care, as well as boost the psychological well-being of your child to have you as an active part of his or her life.