Father's Rights - Contesting Paternity
As family law becomes more complex, so do the advantages and disadvantages of a finding of paternity. A man who is found to be the biological father of a child has a much easier time obtaining visitation rights. However, a finding of paternity may also create the obligation to pay child support.
If a person is named on the birth certificate as the father of a child, this creates a very strong presumption that he is, in fact, the father, since it usually requires an affirmative statement on his part. In an action for child support, it is very difficult for the person named on the birth certificate to prove non-paternity. If a child is born to a married couple, there is also a very strong assumption that the husband is the child’s father.
The only way to conclusively prove non-paternity is through DNA testing. Absent human error, this method can determine paternity with well over 99% accuracy. But even if a DNA test shows that a man is not the biological father, he may still be held to be the legal father.
Many states have laws which allow a husband to contest paternity (usually through DNA testing) within a certain period of time after the child is born. But if the father does not exercise this right within the time limit, and acts as the child’s father in the meantime, the law will treat him as the legal father, no matter how obvious it is that he is not the biological father.
To avoid this, a man who suspects that he is not the father of the child must take the awkward step of requesting a paternity test shortly after the birth of the child. For obvious reasons, many men are reluctant to do this. First, it is likely to create significant tension in the relationship, and it assumes that the mother might have been unfaithful. Nonetheless, in the absence of legislative reform, it may be the only way for some men to protect their legal rights and financial assets.
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Last Modified: 03-19-2012 01:59 PM PDT
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