What are Paternity Rights?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 March 2020
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When a child is born, most legal systems in the world automatically grant certain rights and responsibilities to the biological mother and father. Known as paternity rights, these regulations require that the parents provide for the basic needs of the child until he or she reaches adulthood. The exact paternity rights may vary from region to region, but many legal systems hold both parents equally responsible for the raising of a child.

Basic paternity rights include financial, educational, and provisional responsibilities in regard to the child. A person legally named as a biological parent is often automatically required to meet these rights, unless a waiver is in place. Paternity rights also guarantee the right to visit or request some level of custody of offspring, though this may be at the discretion of the court. In instances where a parent is considered a credible threat to the health or safety of a child, a court may suspend visitation rights and give full custody to the other parent.


In situations where a man suspects he is the father of a child, he may sue for paternity rights. This may require DNA testing of the man and the child to determine if they are a biological match. If DNA testing shows a high likelihood of relation, a court may award visitation, custody, or other rights to the father, as well as require birth documents to be amended to list the father's information. If a woman believes a man may be the father of her child, she can also sue to have paternity established in order to receive child support.

Paternity rights can vary extensively throughout the world, especially with regards to custody. Many countries determine custody on a case by case basis, depending on the financial and mental ability of each parent to care for the child or children in question. In contrast, some countries divide custody based on the age and gender of the child In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women can have custody of sons until age five and girls until age seven, at which point the father may seize total custody if desired. In some regions, women may also lose all paternity rights if they marry a man other than the biological father, or remarry after a divorce.

The idea of paternity rights takes on another meaning when applied to the workplace. Many regions now have laws requiring that new parents be given time off just before or after the birth of a child, known as paternity leave or parental leave. Some countries require that the parents are paid by the employing company during paternity leave, while others offer government funded leave. In the Czech Republic, mothers are given up to four years of leave, subsidized by the state. In other regions, fathers are required or allowed to take paternity leave, though the period allowed is generally shorter.


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