You are a legal father to a child if he or she is your biological offspring or adopted by you. However, this is not the only situation in which the law may designate you as the father of a child. Here are some two lesser-known types of fathers as recognized by the law:
If you are generally assumed as the father of a child, even without factual or legal confirmation, then you are a presumed father. Most states' laws will presume that you are the father of a child if you:
- Wanted to marry the mother just before he or she was conceived or born
- Were married the mother when he or she was born
- Married the mother shortly after he or she was born and even gave him or her your name
- Welcomed the birth of the child and generally act as if he or she is yours
As you can see, a presumed father may not even be a legal parent; you may not even wish o be associated with the child. For this reason, some presumed fathers fight to overturn the recognition. Don't confuse this with an alleged father, which just means somebody (you, the mother, other people etc.) other than the court is claiming that you are the father.
An equitable father is not the legal (adoptive or biological) father of a child but has a close father-son or father-daughter relationship with him or her. Your status as an equitable father is even stronger if it is encouraged by the legal parents. Generally, you have more claim as an equitable father if you have an ongoing and close relationship with the child.
If your state recognizes (some don't) equitable fathers, then it may acknowledge you as one if you:
- You are willing to pay child support
- The child recognizes your position
- You wish to enjoy the legal rights granted to fathers
Consider an example where you marry a single mother whose son or daughter isn't biologically yours, live with them and develop a close relationship with the child. Several years you divorce the mother but wish to continue having a father-child relationship, then you can apply to be recognized as an equitable parent.
Note that these laws vary a great deal from state to state. Therefore, it is best to hire an instate lawyer with real experience of these issues if you have a legal matter concerning fatherhood. One lawyer you can talk to is Christopher R Vanroden.