Despite the overplayed “paternity specials” on daytime talk shows, establishing legal paternity is a serious process that plays an important role in a number of issues affecting both the child and the potential father.
Understanding the Process
To establish paternity, a civil suit must be filed in Family Court where the judge will most likely order a paternity test. Different states have different standards of evidence that must be met to establish paternity; however DNA testing has all but nullified these differences. Where the issue of fatherhood used to rely heavily on actual testimony, paternity tests provide the court with a fool-proof method for identifying the biological father. The results of this test will have a direct impact on a number of issues including custody and visitation rights, child support, adoption proceedings and inheritance matters.
To file a paternity suit, you should contact anattorney so that he or she can provide you with the necessary forms and inform you of the laws and requirements in your state.
Why is Paternity Important?
Once paternity has been established, the father may then choose to pursue custody of the child and/or visitation. In this instance, he will also be required to pay child support and can also request that he be granted joint legal custody so that he can have a say in how the child is raised. If granted, issues such as medical care, education and religion must now be decided jointly between the two parents.
In addition, established paternity means that the mother cannot pursue adoption proceedings with a new husband without the biological father’s consent. Should the father choose not to have any contact with the child, he can terminate his parental rights through the court.
Obviously, these tests are not typically ordered when the birth mother and alleged father agree on paternity. Additionally, there are instances where fatherhood is presumed such as when a man holds the child out to be his own and in the case of married couples – the husband is always presumed to be the father of the children unless the issue is contested. Read more about the other ways to establish paternity.