Being unmarried doesn't have to stop you from taking care of your baby. If you want your baby on your insurance, you should take steps to establish paternity legally. In some states, such as Texas, if you don't establish it, she has no father in the eyes of the law. That may limit your ability to help your child and her mother.
To establish fatherhood, all you have to do is sign a document saying so. States have written forms for this, called an Affidavit of Paternity or Acknowledgment of Paternity or something along those lines. Your hospital should have them on hand, so you can sign and get it notarized as soon as the baby's born. If Mom's already gone home from the hospital, you can get a form from the country registrar and sign it later. Once you and the mother both sign, you're legally the father.
If the mother doesn't want to acknowledge you as the legal father, she can refuse to sign the affidavit. In that case, you'll have to go to court to get your paternity confirmed. You can ask the court for genetic tests, or the mother may ask for them to prove you're not the father. The court may order it independently. Even if testing proves your case, the mother can contest the results and demand more tests
Once you've proven your paternity, insurance coverage shouldn't depend on you tying the knot. Illinois law, for example, requires your insurer offer immediate coverage to any newborn child of yours who qualifies as your dependent under the terms of the policy. If you're eligible for workplace coverage but haven't signed up yet, federal law guarantees you can sign up within 30 days of your child's birth. You can enroll the baby if she qualifies and the mother too.
If you and the mother both have insurance, one of your plans provides primary coverage. That plan pays first; the secondary plan only kicks in if the primary doesn't pay all the bills. If you and the mother live apart, the custodial parent's plan is usually the primary, though a court order can change that. If you're living together, usually whichever of you has the first birthday in the year provides coverage -- it doesn't matter who is the oldest, just who has the earliest birthday.
- Legal Aid Northwest Texas: Question and Answer -- Paternity
- Iowa Legal Aid: Fathers' Rights in Unmarried Situations
- Illinois Department of Insurance: Insurance Coverage for Newborn Children
- U.S. Department of Labor: Protections for Newborns, Adopted Children, and New Parents
- Insure.com: "Birthday Rule" Determines Health Insurance Coverage
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
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