Legal Paternity of Children

Establishing legal parentage or revoking paternity

When Do Dads Need to Address Paternity Issues?

Most of the time, when parents get divorced, the identity of a child's father isn't in question. When both mom and dad are sure that they are their kids' biological parents, there's no need to establish paternity, and during the divorce process, they can go about resolving child-related issues such as child custody, visitation, and child support. But what if there's some uncertainty involved in the situation? Maybe a child was conceived around the time of a couple's temporary separation, or maybe parents were unmarried at the time of their child's birth. In some cases, it may be necessary to resolve matters related to paternity before moving forward with settling issues during divorce.

Establishing a Child's Paternity

Each state has it's own paternity laws, so you'll want to be sure to understand your rights in these cases and the procedures you'll need to follow. However, most state laws presume that a man is a child's father if he was married to the child's mother at the time of birth. If this was true in your situation, you've probably already been legally recognized as your child's father, and when separating from your spouse, you have the right to share in parental responsibilities and the obligation to provide financial support for your child.

If you weren't married to your child's mom, you may not be considered the child's legal father, even if the two of you have lived together and acted as parents throughout the child's life. In these cases, you may need to take steps to establish paternity. This can usually be done if the two of you file a form together acknowledging that you are the child's father. However, if your ex doesn't agree to do so, you may need to take legal action to establish paternity. In these cases, DNA testing will usually be performed, and once it is confirmed that you are the biological father, a court order will be issued naming you as the legal father.

What if I'm Not the Father?

Although it might be difficult to deal with, there may be some situations in which you find out that you're not the biological father of a child you thought was yours. However, this doesn't automatically absolve you of your rights and responsibilities as a parent. You may have previously been named the legal parent of a child because you were married to the child's mother or because the two of you submitted an acknowledgment of paternity. You'll need to take steps to revoke or disestablish paternity, and until a court orders that you are not the child's father, you will still have all the rights and responsibilities of a legal parent.

Even if you're feeling a sense of betrayal, you'll want to avoid acting rashly or hastily. While you may not be genetically linked to a child, you may have served as their father figure throughout their entire life, and the sudden loss of this relationship could be devastating to them. You may no longer wish to be in a relationship with the child's mother, but you'll probably want to continue making sure the child's needs are met and serving as a quality role model throughout their growth and development. Taking steps to revoke paternity may be prudent, since it will ensure that the child's biological father will provide much-needed financial support, but you may be able to reach an agreement with the mother that will allow you to maintain an active role in the child's life.

Whether you need to establish paternity to protect your parental rights or want to know how to proceed if you believe you are not a child's father, you'll want to work with an experienced family law attorney. Your lawyer can help you understand your state's paternity laws, your rights, and the steps you will need to follow, while also providing you with representation in any legal proceedings. By addressing these matters properly, you can be sure that you and your child will be protected, no matter what happens in the future.

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