Becoming a parent can be the most life-changing experience a person can have. However, it can also be fraught with confusion and frustration if there are disputes over whether a person is, in fact, a parent.
Below, we examine a few specific situations in which a person's status may be in question and what parents and others may do to resolve questions about parentage.
If there are doubts about paternity
Often, parentage is in question when more than one man could be the father. In these situations, there is no presumption of paternity. Parties who may be the father can undergo biological testing to confirm or deny their biological relationship with the child.
However, typically, a man married to (or in a marriage-like relationship with) the mother at the time a child was born is presumed to be the father. A man can also voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing an agreement.
When a donor is used
Donors who provide an embryo or reproductive material are not legally parents simply because of their donation. Further, a mother who gives birth to a child is considered the child's birth mother unless she is party to a written surrogacy agreement.
Numerous arrangements may take shape when parties pursue assisted reproduction. And while such arrangements are all different, one way to avoid disputes over parentage is to have clear, enforceable agreements in writing dictating who will and will not have parenting rights.
When someone wants to adopt
Establishing parentage through adoption is another option. However, there is a separate process -- and separate laws -- in place for this. As such, discussing adoption with a lawyer can be crucial, whether you plan to place a child up for adoption or wish to adopt.
Establishing legal parentage can be crucial for many reasons, from protecting the rights and obligations of a legal parent to providing a child with a sense of understanding about his or her background. However, no matter what reasons you have when it comes to determining parentage, having legal guidance as you navigate the process will be important.