• The Paternity Process

    paternity process legal helpPaternity is the legal acknowledgment that there exists a paternal relationship between a man and a child. Under common law, there is an automatic “presumption of legitimacy”; if a child is born to a man’s wife, the child is also the man’s child. The law requires that the man have complete rights, duties and obligations to the child. However, the “presumption of legitimacy” can be challenged by showing evidence of divorce or separation among other statuses. Some states do not allow such challenges to be made.

    If the paternity of a child is indeterminate, a party may seek help from the court to determine paternity of putative fathers, who are men that could be the alleged father of the child. The paternity suit, which is also known as an affiliation proceeding, is a criminal proceeding in certain states. The unwed mother is usually the party who initiates the paternity suit. In some states, if the mother is a minor, the paternal proceedings must be initiated by a parent or guardian who is acting on her behalf. Other parties who might initiate paternity suits are heirs of the deceased alleged father. The heirs are typically trying to dispute or establish paternity in inheritance rights proceedings. However, in these cases, many states have various rules and time restrictions that may deny any inheritance rights to biological children of a deceased father. Another party that could initiate the paternity suit is the alleged father. There are unfortunate circumstances where the mother does not wish for the father to be involved in the child’s life. In such cases, the father may try to submit documentations to the court such as a “Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity” or to the state’s department of records to alert adoption agencies that there is a possible father who wishes to adopt the child.

    After the proceedings are initiated, the court would then determine the paternity using sworn statements, testimony and other documents and evidence from both parties. If the man submits documents to claim paternity, and the mother does not contest, the man may be able to show paternity. The man may also sign a paternal acknowledgement form to establish paternity. In addition to the documents that both parties present, the court may order paternity tests if deemed necessary. In some states, the courts will use DNA tests as dispositive to establish paternity.

    Some laws will still assign such responsibilities and rights even if the mother was dishonest about the birth or in cases of statutory rape by the mother. The law requires that the parents file a parenting plan with a district court. The parenting plan outlines how the birth parents should share parental responsibilities of the child. The parent plan includes such issues as child support, visitation rights, insurance, and physical custody. The parents may modify the existing parenting plan due to changes in circumstances such as the relocation of a parent or child health problems. To modify the existing parenting plan, the parent must file a request with the court.
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