Anyone can be a dad, but it takes someone special to be a father. Although the days of society distinguishing between legitimate or illegitimate children are long gone, the distinction is still legally relevant. The fact is, without a legal determination that a parent-child relationship exists, a father or non-biological mother cannot protect their parental rights, nor can the child’s right to be financially supported by both parents be protected. Kansas law provides that a parent-child relationship exists between a child and the child’s biological or adoptive parents to whom the law confers or imposes rights, privileges, duties, and obligations. Birth mothers are automatically conferred and imposed said benefits and obligations, because their relationship to the child is very clear. Fathers married to the mother have equal rights to the mother, absent a court order stating otherwise. But unfortunately for unmarried fathers or second mothers, simply being present, and being listed as the second parent on a birth certificate does not a legal parent make. The parent-child relationship between a child and a parent who did not give birth to the child must be established either by a statutory Acknowledgement of Paternity form signed by both parents, or by judgment of a Kansas court under the Kansas Parentage Act.
Valid Acknowledgment of Paternity forms are created by the Kansas Department of Vital Statistics in conjunction with the Kansas Department for Children and Families (formerly SRS). They are available at Kansas birthing hospitals, as well as some other Kansas hospitals. These forms contain a specific explanation of a parent’s rights and responsibilities, as required by statute.
A judgment under the Kansas Parentage Act, also known as a Paternity Judgment or Non-Biological Maternity Judgment, will contain the specific findings of the Judge that permit the Court’s recognition of a specific individual as the child’s second parent. An action or suit under the Parentage Act may be filed by a father or second mother, in order to establish his/her legal relationship with the child, on behalf of the child by the birth mother, in order to establish paternity/non-biological maternity accompanied by a child support obligation, or by the State of Kansas, Department for Children and Families, also to establish a child support obligation, thereby relieving the State of Kansas from supporting a child in place of their second parent. There are several legal presumptions that work for or against some individuals in establishing a parent-child relationship, as well as many important issues or requirements which may not be obvious to a non-attorney. For that reason, it is always wise to consult a Kansas family law attorney if you have questions about establishing a legal parent-child relationship in Kansas.by Beth Crosland, J.D.
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