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A father's role in the family has been defined in various ways throughout the history of the United States. The English heritage of the first settlers encouraged patriarchal rule in the family. As changing technology spurred the Industrial Revolution, the father was propelled out of the home and into the workplace, and his role became that of breadwinner. Consequently, mothers soon found their authority in the home heightened. Both parents left the home when the World War II effort urged citizens into the factories and offices to serve the United States in a time of crisis. This again led to a more aggressive female presence in society as well as the family. As the father's role in the family changed, so did the laws reflecting the father's rights. Today the line is skewed, as more often the establishment of paternity becomes a difficult process no longer defined by the old standards of marriage or adoption. This text discusses the changes in paternity laws over time and the ways in which each era's societal norms have been reflected in those laws. Custody, legitimacy, adoption and paternity are examined from a legal standpoint. Child support, visitation scheduling and third party parenting and visitation rights are also discussed. Finally, current trends that affect paternity laws are examined. Major cases, statutes and model acts that exemplify changes in paternity laws are listed in three appendices.