Paternity is defined as the quality or state of being a Father. The person wanting to establish Paternity can either be the Mother, Father, or child, depending on the individual desires of the parties involved. With science giving us more accurate testing, the matter of establishing paternity is easier and more reliable than in the past. DNA testing methods include SWAB Test and DNA Genetic Identity. DNA testing centers are easy to locate and the costs are reasonable. For this reason, most paternity matters are settled prior to trial. In addition, Complaints and Petitions to establish Paternity are now often routine and agreed to by all parties. The resulting child support and custody proceedings are also involved.
Children born to unwed persons do not automatically have a legal Father without a Paternity action establishing the identity of the Father, whether agreed or contested
Reasons to Establish Paternity:
To provide the child with a needed identity.
It is important to know the health history of both the Mother and Father for medical care and treatment of the child.
It takes two to fairly support a child in today’s world to the extent of their ability.
Establishing Paternity allows the child to be covered by health insurance, social security, inheritance and veteran’s benefits.
Paternity also means the parties can seek public assistance where they qualify.
Can be filed by the alleged Father, Mother, Child, or Child Support Division of the State.
Paternity testing can be ordered by the Court in most States. The Mother, Father and child can be ordered to submit to testing.
Testing can be by blood tests, swab test or other methods to obtain DNA samples.
Generally, testing is paid for by the Father if testing is positive or the mother if testing is negative. The Parties may also agree to how the testing will be paid.
The Father will be shown on the birth certificate if he acknowledges paternity when or close in time to the birth, or the Court orders the birth certificate to be changed to reflect the Fathers name.
When the child is born, the Mother usually establishes the name of the child. If the Mother and Father acknowledge Paternity and complete the application for a birth certificate they can both choose the child’s name. If the name is not established by this means, the Court can order the change of the child’s name at any time.
Most paternity actions involve a child born out of wedlock. 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 his 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 and other evidence. In some states, the Mother and Husband can sign an “Affidavit of Denial of Paternity” where both agree that the Husband is not the Father of the child.
Age of Parents:
Generally, the age of the parents does not matter and parents of any age can establish paternity.
Custody of a child can either be awarded to the Father or the Mother in Paternity actions, depending on the facts. Mothers receive custody more often but Fathers are being awarded custody under certain circumstances. The Parties may also sign an agreement addressing this issue that the Court may consider in awarding custody.
Generally, the same rules that apply to child support in divorce actions, also apply to child support in Paternity actions. Either party can be ordered to pay child support to the other. Some Courts will also award back child support relating back to the date of birth or a specific number of years. The Parties may also sign an agreement providing for the payment of child support to be approved by the Court.
If the Parties cannot agree to visitation rights, the Court may be petitioned to request visitation rights.
Voluntarily Acknowledging Paternity:
In most cases, you may elect to voluntarily acknowledge paternity with or without DNA testing. Once you agree, you may or may not be able to revoke the acknowledgment depending on your State.
Action by Child:
An action for paternity may also be filed by the child. In many states, after a child reaches the “age of majority,” he has another one to five years to seek the establishment of paternity. Attempts to limit the right of the child to file for paternity have generally been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.