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Louisiana family laws establishing paternity

In Louisiana, an unmarried man is not presumed to be a father without establishing a legal or genetic link to a child. Biological fathers may have little or no say in the upbringing of their children unless they take actions to change that. A parent-child relationship must be established to exercise fathers' rights.

Fully taking on the rights and obligations of parenthood isn't as simple as making a claim. The Louisiana Putative Father Registry allows men to declare they are the father of a child. However, the registration must be accompanied by acceptable proof that the man is a child's father, including an authentic act of acknowledgment or a paternity judgment by a Louisiana court or family court in another state.

An unmarried father may sign an acknowledgment of paternity for a child born outside marriage. The alleged or putative father and unmarried mother agree the unmarried dad may request custody and visitation rights. The father also can be ordered to pay child support -- financial obligations come with parenthood.

Either parent may petition the court for a genetic test to find out if the alleged father is also the biological father. The child's rights, including inheritance rights, then equal those of a baby born to married parents.

A putative father may revoke the act of acknowledgment within 60 days or during a child-related judicial hearing, whichever occurs first. The alleged father remains the legal father unless the paternity claim is revoked or evidence is shown that he should not be the legal father. This does not preclude the child's mother or a court from pursuing a paternity or child support case.

Unmarried fathers concerned about the involvement in a child's life can speak with a family law attorney about these options. A legal consultation can be extremely helpful, especially before you agree to sign an acknowledgment of paternity or undergo a DNA test.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers" Dec. 30, 2014

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