Paternity is defined as the quality or state of being a father. Many issues arise in the face of a father being denied access to his child or wondering if he is truly the child’s father. Where paternity of a child is in question, a mother or alleged father may ask the court to determine paternity of one or several possible fathers.
Most paternity actions involve a child born out of wedlock. However, paternity actions also occur between married persons where someone other than the husband is the father of the child, or where the husband has fathered a child outside of the marriage. There is a presumption that a child born to a married woman is the child of the husband. However, this presumption can be overcome by DNA or other valid evidence.
If you are questioning paternity, think about when the child could have been conceived. Consider when you had relevant or timely intercourse. Understand that paternity is determined by testing DNA from the father and the mother through the use of genetic fingerprinting. DNA testing is done by drawing blood or by taking a buccal swab, when cells are wiped from the inside of the mouth with a cotton swab. These tests can determine the father of a child with up to 99% accuracy. DNA testing is currently the most advanced and accurate technology to determine parentage. Generally paternity testing is paid for by the father.
If you file a paternity suit, you can request the court order DNA testing. A court may order the mother, father and the child to submit to testing. Paternity testing can be done during pregnancy or when the child is as young as one day old.
Paternity proceedings can be filed by the alleged father, mother, child or child support division of a state. A private action for paternity is usually prosecuted to secure child support payments from the father, parenting time with the child, and/or fair rights and privilege allocation.
Some men are confident that they are the biological father and wish to maintain a legal relationship with the child whether or not they are the father and thus either initiate paternity actions or consent to the entry of a paternity order. The paternity order entitles the father to visitation time with the child and creates a legal duty for the father to provide for the support of the child in addition to awarding him rights and privileges regarding the child’s future development.
When you consent to the entry of a paternity order, absent fraud, you consent for life. Most jurisdictions will not allow you to escape the consequences of that order, including the requirement of payment for the support of the child. If there is a chance that you will resent the child, or wish to break off the relationship with the child or, if you ultimately learn that you are not the child’s biological father, make certain you obtain a DNA test before legally admitting and therefore confirming that you are a child’s father.
Custody of a child can either be awarded to the father or the mother in a paternity action depending on the facts. Child support in a paternity action is generally set according to state law standards unless the parties sign an agreement providing for the payment of child support that is approved by the court.
Reasons to establish paternity: to provide the child with a needed identity; to confirm rights, privileges and duties of a parent; to know the health history of both the mother and father for medical care and treatment of a child; establish financial support for the child; establish health insurance coverage, social security eligibility, inheritance and other benefits; and seek public assistance where qualified.