Paternity is a legal recognition of fatherhood. It solidifies your rights as the father of your children. Mothers have automatic rights upon birth, but fathers do not always get instant rights.
The law considers paternity based on the marital status of the parents at the time of a child’s birth. It is possible to have legal paternity established for one child and not the others.
Any child born when you and the mother are in a marriage is legally yours. Patnertiy is automatic for the mother and father in these cases. This is true even if you know the child is not yours. You would have to take additional steps to denounce paternity and legal obligations of being the father of a child that you believe is not yours.
If you and the mother are not in a marriage when the child is born, you have no rights until you legally establish them. The hospital may offer you paperwork to achieve this goal. You may also have to handle it afterward by completing paperwork. In some cases, you may need DNA tests to prove paternity. Keep in mind that until you establish legal fatherhood, you have no rights to your child under the law. You are at the complete mercy of the mother.
It is important to establish paternity and ensure you have done so if you wish to be an active part of your child’s life. Remember legal rights mean you have obligations, such as child support, and benefits, including making decisions about the raising of your child.