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Paternity Issues and Child Support

Establishing paternity is a vital step regarding collecting child support payments.

Child support and paternity are two words familiar to anybody experiencing a divorce or child support case. However, what a lot of parents don’t understand is that prior to a court ordering child support, you are required to establish paternity. Finding the answer to the supposedly simple question “who is the father?” might be more convoluted than one might think.

Paternity Fundamentals

Establishing paternity is a legal process used by the court system to find out the child’s biological father. Pending the court establishing paternity, the child’s father has no rights or obligations to their child, that means no responsibility for paying child support or the right to appreciate custody or visitations with the child. Each parent can petition the court to establish paternity, or the court is able to open a case on their own.

Acknowledged Paternity

A child born to un-married parents doesn’t systematically have a father legally. For establishing paternity, a biological father is able to either acknowledge paternity through writing—through what is occasionally referred to as an affidavit of parentage—or both parents are able to agree to paternity. An acknowledged father is required to pay child support.

Presumed Father

In many states, if spouses were married during the child’s conception or birth, the husband is presumed the biological father. However, this assumption may be void if the couple was separated at conception or birth.

This presumption is challengeable; the man can contest paternity by filing a legal petition in court. Unmarried men may face presumed fatherhood if they tried to marry the birth mother, legally married after the child’s birth, or openly treated the child as their own.

Contesting presumed paternity is time-sensitive, so it’s crucial for the assumed father to consult with a knowledgeable attorney promptly. Failing to file a timely petition may result in court-ordered child support for a child not biologically related.

Alleged Father

An “alleged father” is an unmarried man recognized by the court as a child’s biological father. In many cases, the other parent initiates a paternity case to establish custody and child support.

Unlike presumed paternity, where the father disputes the claim, alleged fathers must be given a chance by the court to take a paternity test before proceeding with any support or custody case.

Both biological parents are legally obliged to financially support their children. If a mother receives public support, the state may file a paternity case against the alleged father to recover aid provided for the child.

Upon receiving a paternity petition, it’s crucial for the alleged father to promptly respond. Ignoring it may lead to a “default judgment,” where the court assumes paternity without a test. Disregarding court documents could result in child support obligations for someone else’s child.

Equitable Parent

While state statutes vary, many allow a non-legal parent (biological or adoptive) to obtain custody or visitation rights. Courts may apply equitable parent laws if a strong parent-child bond exists and the non-legal parent has provided support. Child support may also be mandated.

Stepfather

Stepfathers, meaning a mother’s new spouse, isn’t the biological father of his wife’s children. A stepfather is legally not responsible to support his wife’s children financially unless he adopts them legally.

What About Same-Sex Couples?

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, creating questions about paternity in such unions. While many states have assumed parent laws, procedures for same-sex marriages are often unclear.

Parents can add names to birth certificates, but it may not fully protect non-biological rights in divorce or after a biological parent’s death. For many same-sex couples, a wise step is consulting a family law attorney for stepparent adoption.

What Occurs During the Paternity Case?

Paternity cases begin when a parent or district prosecutor files a court petition. Fathers need a court order for custody or visitation rights. It’s common for fathers to initiate the process.

Presently, a basic blood test is usually all a court requires to establish paternity. DNA or other blood tests are usually 99.9% accurate at find out who the child’s biological father is.

When a court establishes paternity, the judge will order the father to pay child support for their child and may also grant custody or visitation rights.

Source:

  1. Melissa Heinig, A. (2020, January 24). Paternity issues and child support. www.nolo.com. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/paternity-issues-child-support-29847.html

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