Legally and biologically, paternity simply means the state of being the father of another person. There are a number of child custody and support cases every year that require paternity to be established. With technological advances, it has become much easier and much more accurate to establish paternity today than ever before. There are a variety of DNA tests that can be done including genetic identity and swab tests.
In most legal cases, a child that is born in wedlock is considered to be the child of both the husband and the wife. This presumption of legitimacy grants the husband all of the responsibilities, rights and duties to that child. Presumption however can often be rebutted if evidence can be shown to the contrary. In cases unmarried mothers, males can accept paternity if they wish. The mother can also appeal to the courts for a determination of paternity if she is not satisfied with the male accepted the responsibility. The outcome of paternity as far as the courts are concerned is the same whether the court orders that it be determined, the male volunteers for the role or the mother and father are married when the child is born.
Either parent can attempt to prove the paternity of a child. If the father feels that perhaps another man is actually the biological parent of the child, he can request that paternity be determined. The mother has the right to attempt to prove paternity as well. When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other at the time of birth, that child is considered to be without a father until paternity is proven. Without legal action being taken, the father’s identity could remain unknown. In some cases, the child itself can attempt to prove paternity and in most states, child support courts will order paternity tests when the mother is attempting to seek child support payments from a father and those parents were not married when the child was born.
There are several reasons why someone may want to determine paternity. Issues that are related to child support and child custody are the most common. The rules that apply to child support in divorce cases as in the amount and configuration of payments, are the same in child support cases where paternity must first be established. The mother or the father can be forced to pay child support depending on which parent has legal custody of the child. Many courts order that child support be paid for a specified amount of time even as far back as when the child was born. Once paternity is established, the father may be required to pay back support but he is also legally granted the right to become part of the life of that child.
The laws pertaining to and defining paternity vary from state to state. If both parents cannot agree on issues related to a child’s paternity, they should both seek the assistance of an attorney with specialization in this area. It is essential that both parents know and understand their rights concerning their child.
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