Having a child is overwhelming enough without having to worry about all of the legal considerations involved. Yes, believe it or not, your new bundle of joy will come with not just new responsibilities to handle, but also a mountain of paperwork to fill out.

But fear not. FindLaw.com provides a wealth of information on family law issues, including checklists for new parents. Below, you’ll find five important steps parents should take in order to protect the interests of their children.

1. Obtain a Birth Certificate

This one may seem pretty obvious, but it’s the most important step in the process. Your child’s birth certificate is the gateway to obtaining all other important documentation throughout his or her life, including a driver’s license, passport, and Social Security number.

2. Get a Social Security Number

You’ll need a Social Security number to claim your child as a dependent on your state and federal income tax returns. You’ll also need it to create an education savings account. Fortunately, many hospitals conveniently allow you to apply for a Social Security number at the same time they record your child’s birth.

3. Obtain Custodial Rights

If you and your partner aren’t married, you may want to establish paternity. That’s because in nearly every state, the mother has full custody rights until paternity is established. Establishing paternity will help protect the child’s financial interests and allow the father to obtain visitation rights.

4. Sign up Your Child for Health Insurance

You should add your child to your health insurance plan as a dependent as soon as possible. If you don’t currently have health insurance, you can explore your options on your state’s website.

5. Choose a Legal Guardian

Should something happen to you, the child’s designated legal guardian will gain custody until the child comes of age. That’s why it’s important for you to choose someone you can trust. Before making a decision, you should talk over the matter with anyone you’re considering for the role.

FindLaw offers a wide range of family law resources to help consumers learn about their rights and better protect the interests of their families, as well as resources for the attorneys counseling them. The site’s section on Parental Rights and Liability includes articles on parenting legal tips, saving for education, protecting your children from crime, and more.

Michelle Croteau, Director of Marketing Communications
with Corey Licht, FindLaw Audience Team

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