Teen Fatherhood - Rights and Responsibilities of being a Teen Dad

A closer look at your rights and responsibilities.

teen pregnancy

There is a lot of advice out there for girls who find themselves facing an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy but there is very little information out there for guys. It takes two to make a baby but all too often when the pregnancy is announced the guy gets lost in the confusion. Teen fatherhood is not something to be taken lightly and along with responsibilities to the mother and the child; you have rights that you need to know about.

What are your rights as a prospective father?

First and foremost you have the right to know for sure that you are the father. This is not only a right you have but it is a right that the unborn child is entitled to as well. While everyone is mixed up in the emotionally charged circumstances surrounding an unwanted pregnancy it is often overlooked or downplayed that both father and child have a right to know the truth about paternity. Understandably a pregnant girl may be upset when the subject of DNA testing comes up but it is not something you should ever feel guilty about requesting. You are not calling her sexual conduct in to question by wanting to know for sure that you are the father. You are not suggesting that she is bad or a liar. You are simply exercising your right to know for sure that you are the father and this is important because fatherhood is a life long commitment.

If you are the father you have the right to know your child and to participate in your child’s life. You have rights of custody and access. You also have responsibilities. You have the responsibility to financially and emotionally care for your child. You have a responsibility to be present in your child’s life and ensure that your child’s needs are met. You have the responsibility to ensure that your child is safe and well cared for and is free from harm. You have the responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of your child. More on rights and responsibilities later, first let’s look at the most important thing every prospective father needs to know about… how to know if they are really the father.

How can you know if you are the father?

There are two ways to determine if you are the father, blood type matching and DNA testing. Blood type matching is the cheapest and simplest test but it does not determine paternity it only tells you if it is possible that you are the father. If the blood types don’t match up there is no possible way you are the father and no other tests are needed. If the blood types do match up it only means that you could be the father and a DNA test will be needed to know for sure.

In order to match blood types you need to know the answers to three questions; what is the father’s blood type, what is the mother’s blood type and what is the baby’s blood type? A baby’s blood type is determined by the blood types of its parents and it is an exact science as to what possible blood type a baby can have based on the types of the parents. It may sound confusing but it is really very simple. The blood type of the baby is determined by a combination of its’ parents' blood types. If the baby has a blood type that could not be the result of the combined blood types of both parents then the paternity is usually called in to question (since in natural conception maternity is never at issue).

So what is the difference between a positive and a negative blood type match? Rh factor aside (which determines if the blood type is positive + or negative – and is not effected by paternity) a baby will have the same blood type as either its mother or its father or it will have a combined blood type based on the types of both parents. A negative blood type matching happens if a baby does not have the father’s or mother’s blood type or if the blood type that a baby does have is not a possible combination of the father’s and the mother’s. A positive blood type matching happens when a baby has the same blood type as the mother, the same blood type as the father or a blood type that is a combination of the parent’s blood types. The following chart shows which blood types are possible based on the combined types of the parents.

Determining Paternity by Blood Type

A and A A, O B, AB
A and B A, B, AB, O All types match
A and AB A, B, AB O
A and O A, O B, AB
B and B B, O A, AB
B and AB A, B, AB O
B and O B, O A, AB
AB and AB A, B, AB O
AB and O A, B AB, O
O and O O A, B, AB

Article updated by Teen Advice Expert, Keisha Howard.

Remember in cases of natural conception if the blood types do not match it is because the wrong father has been identified. If the blood types do match up the next step that should be taken is a DNA test as blood type matches only suggest the possibility, not the certainty, that the right father has been identified. DNA testing is much more complicated and expensive but in the end, it is worth the investment and many private labs have payment programs available to make access to this test easier. Don’t feel bad about wanting a DNA test, as discussed earlier both father and a child have a right to know the truth. The most accurate DNA testing is done using samples from all three parties; mother, identified father and child, but testing can be done with only samples from the identified father and child. While it is possible to test DNA before a child is born this is much more costly and can pose a risk to the unborn child. For this reason, most DNA testing is done after the child is born.

Should you get married?

The question of marriage under these circumstances is a very personal one but it should not be entered into lightly. The pressure to marry when an unwanted pregnancy occurs can be overwhelming but there are important legal ramifications that potential fathers must be aware of. In North America, our system of law is based on British Common Law and under this legal structure a child born in wedlock (that is to parents who are legally married at the time of birth) is automatically presumed to belong to the husband. A legal father has the same rights and responsibilities as a biological father. If you marry a girl who claims you fathered her child and later find out that you are not the father it can be difficult and costly, not to mention emotionally devastating, to have your parental rights and responsibilities changed. It may be worth your while to consult with a lawyer near where you live before marrying under these circumstances in order to fully and properly understand the law on this matter where you live.

What about adoption? Can I give up my baby for adoption even if the mother does not want to?

No, you can’t force the other parent to give the child up for adoption. You may be able to give up your own parental rights however, depending on the laws where you live. A lawyer in your area can better advise you on the subject of giving up parental rights and obligations and if this is something you want you must seek legal advice.

OK, I’m the father and I’m going to be involved, now what?

If you and the mother can agree on a custody arrangement and on child support it can be as simple as signing an agreement and filing it with the family court in your area. This may or may not require a lawyer. When there is nothing being disputed by either parent then the matter of filing is relatively simple and any associated legal fees are usually minimal. If the two of you can’t agree then you will need a lawyer. As a father you have the right to know your child and to be a participant in his or her life. You also have the responsibility to support and care for your child and if you are the non-custodial parent you have the responsibility to pay child support. As touched on earlier you have the responsibility to ensure that your child is free from harm and is well cared for. If you believe that the mother is unable to care for your child or that your child is being harmed in her care then you have a responsibility to do something about it. On the other hand, if a mother believes that you may be bad for the child or put the child in harms way then she has a responsibility to do something about it. This usually involves going to court to stop or limit access. A lawyer will be needed and depending on where you live you may be able to get legal aid or assistance. Check with your local law society, Attorney General, or other public law office.

Parenthood is not an easy thing and it should never be entered into lightly. No matter what the circumstances surrounding conception when you become a parent you are a parent for the rest of your life. Fathers are no less important than mothers and their obligations to their child are no less than those of a mother. Just because biology has made it that mothers carry the child in their body this does not mean that the mother is the most important parent. Both parents have important roles to play in the life of their child. While having a child while you’re still a kid yourself is less than ideal this does not make you any less a parent. Once you know a child is yours it changes your life forever no matter how old, or young, you are.