Society and culture continues to grow and evolve, including our definition of family. Families are becoming less traditional than they once were and in order to protect yourself and loved ones. When a husband and wife have a child during their marriage, the law states that the husband is the father of the child. But, what about unmarried couples? Typically, determining the mother is a fairly obvious. But, how is paternity legally determined? Being named the father of your child is important, not only emotionally, but from a legal standpoint as well. Beyond financial obligations to a child and their mother, establishing paternity is necessary in probate matters and worker’s compensation issues.
There are a number of different ways to establish paternity and the mechanism that is best for you will depend on each person’s particular situation. Below are descriptions of some of the most common methods of establish paternity.
- Marriage. As stated above, if a husband and wife have a child during their marriage the husband is presumed to be the father of that child. Furthermore, if the mother and believed father marry sometime during the child’s life, the child is treated to have been born during that marriage.
- Affidavit or acknowledgment. If both the mother and supposed father sign an affidavit, or a voluntary acknowledgment (either notarized or signed in front of two witnesses) of paternity, the supposed father becomes the legal father of the child. If at the time of birth, this may be necessary to have the father’s name on the original birth certificate if the parents are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth. If such affidavit or acknowledgement is signed later in the child’s life, the document will need to be filed with the clerk of the court. Often times the hospital will provide the affidavit and the birth certificate simultaneously at the time of birth.
- Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue may also commence an administrative determination of paternity in order to begin child support obligations.
- Court Proceedings. The mother, a child, or father who suspects he may be the father of a child may bring proceedings to determine the paternity of a child. If such a proceeding is commenced, the court may require genetic testing of the mother, suspected father, and the child. Wherever genetic testing is used in a court proceeding, if there is a 95% probability of the supposed father being the biological father, that man is presumed to be the father of the child. This presumption may be overcome, but it is very difficult. If there is less than a 95% probability that the supposed father is the biological father, the court will look at the totality of the circumstances and other evidence presented before declaring the paternity of the child. In that case, the court still may order that the supposed father is the legal father.
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