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Can a nonbiological father establish legal paternity by marriage?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Family Law

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and his child. It gives both the child and the father certain rights and responsibilities. For the father, these responsibilities might include supporting the child financially and having the freedom to spend time with the child. As for the child, they could have the right to certain inheritance claims and the ability to know important health information about their father’s family.

However, there can be many reasons a man who isn’t a biological father might wish to become a child’s legal father. One such reason could be his desire to formally recognize his emotional bond with the child, forming a family in the eyes of the law.

Paternity by marriage

In Rhode Island, if a man is married and his wife has a child, he becomes the father in the eyes of the law. This happens even if he’s not the biological father. This legal connection allows him to be part of big decisions in the child’s life, such as education or medical treatment. This is called the presumption of paternity.

Presumption of paternity

The presumption of paternity is a legal concept that assumes a man is the father of a child under certain conditions. One such condition is based on the idea that a child born during a marriage is the product of that marriage. In many jurisdictions, including Rhode Island, if a woman is married and gives birth, there is a presumption of paternity that her husband is the child’s legal father. This holds true even if he is not the biological father.

The emotional nature of the process

It’s important to note that these issues are not just relevant to fathers. If there’s a suspicion or discovery that her husband or partner is not the biological father of her child, this could lead to a host of emotional and practical considerations. She may grapple with whether to disclose this information and, if so, how. This situation can have profound implications for her, the child, the nonbiological father and the family. Regardless, deciding to establish paternity is significant and can shape a family’s future. Therefore, everyone involved should navigate it with thoughtfulness and care.