• Paternity Frequently Asked Questions

    What is paternity law and what is a paternity suit?

    Paternity law deals with the issue of establishing fatherhood. A paternity suit is a lawsuit that is usually brought by the mother of a child to determine whether a particular man is the father of the child.

    Can the court order a person to take a paternity test?

    Yes. The court can order a person to take a paternity test for the purpose of establishing parentage. If a man takes a paternity test and it is established that he is the father, he will then be responsible for paying child support and the child will have a right to inherit from him.

    Who is allowed to bring a paternity suit?

    A paternity suit may be brought by the child's mother, a man claiming to be the child's father, the child's guardian, or the child himself. At times, a Social Services department may also bring a paternity suit if a child is receiving public assistance.

    What if I don't have the money to file a paternity suit?

    Paternity suits can be very expensive. However, almost all states have ways in which a paternity suit can be filed by the state at no cost to the mother. State child support agencies will file the suit on behalf of the mother who is trying to establish paternity.

    Other than litigation, how else can paternity be established?

    Other than resorting to litigation, paternity can be established if both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity document that legally establishes paternity. If the father is not married to the mother, this can be done at the hospital right before or right after the baby is born. This may also be done at a later time as well.

    Does it benefit an unwed father to establish paternity?

    A man has no legal parental rights until he is legally declared the father. Once declared the legal father, a court must consider a man's visitation and custody wishes. In addition, establishing paternity helps a child who might be entitled to Social Security, veterans or health insurance benefits.

    Do statutes of limitations apply to paternity suits?

    Yes. Specific laws vary from state to state. However, many states have a statute of limitations with regard to paternity issues. For example, there may only be a certain time period or window when a mother can bring a paternity suit or may bring a suit for child support.

    What is paternity fraud?

    Paternity fraud is when one man is falsely identified as the only possible biological father by a mother who does not disclose that other men could be the father. This is why anyone who is alleged to be the biological father of a child should insist on taking a DNA test. Even if a mother claims the man is the only one who could be the father, there is a possibility she could be lying. Therefore, the most prudent course of action is to have the DNA testing done. An alleged father should never just assume that the mother of a child is being honest.

    What happens if the alleged father dies before paternity is established?

    If the alleged father dies before paternity is established, genetic testing can still be done. Blood or tissue sample may be used. Also, it might be a possibility to do genetic testing on the paternal grandparents.
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