Establishing paternity of a child is important for both the father as well as the mother. For the father, it is important if he wishes to have any parental rights once the child is born. For the mother, it is important if she wishes to receive any financial assistance from the father of the child to help raise the child — whether or not the father remains a part of the child's life.
When it comes to establishing paternity, there are three main ways that you can do it.
Presumed Through Marriage
Though it may seem a bit traditional and outdated, it is typically presumed that a man is the father of a child if he is married to the woman giving birth. This presumption holds even if the baby was conceived before the couple got married.
If no one challenges the paternity of the child, then this presumption is valid enough to establish that the husband is indeed the child's father. However, in the event that someone — such as a previous romantic partner, boyfriend, or spouse — challenges the paternity of the child, then sufficient evidence will be required in order to confirm the presumption.
Voluntary Paternity Declaration
Couples or parents who are not legally married can establish a child’s paternity by voluntarily signing a paternity declaration or paternity acknowledgment form. This form is typically signed by both mother and father when the child is born at the hospital, though it can be signed at a later date.
Once this form has been signed, the father will need to petition the court for custodial rights. Until then, the mother remains the only custodial parent. If either parent decides that they would like to rescind the form, they can challenge the acknowledgment of paternity within a 60-day timeframe from the date on which the form was signed.
Men should understand that if they are unsure whether they are the child's father, they should never sign the birth certificate at the hospital or any other forms. If a man does so, he will be held financially responsible for the child moving forward.
Paternity is most commonly determined by a DNA test. On a yearly basis, there are approximately 280,000 DNA tests performed in order to determine the paternity of a child, and statistics show that DNA testing is 99.999 percent accurate. DNA samples can be obtained through several different ways, though the most common are cheek swabs and blood.
If a mother refuses to comply with a DNA test, it is possible to obtain a court order for the paternity test. Men who want the right to contact and be with their child will want to seek a court order to ensure that they have the best chance of winning custodial rights.
When a man claims he is not the father of a child, mothers will want to petition the court to have a test conducted to prove that he is the father so that he will be held financially responsible for his child. As a general rule, the alleged father will be served with the paternity suit and ordered, along with the child, to undergo DNA testing. In some cases, the mother may undergo testing as well.
At first glance, it may seem pretty straightforward to establish the paternity of a child; however, things can get pretty complicated.
If you have questions regarding the laws of establishing paternity and would like to discuss your particular case in detail with an experienced lawyer, contact A. B. Olmos & Associates, P.C. We have helped numerous clients previously and would be honored to advocate for you as well.