As family law becomes more complex, so do the advantages and disadvantages of a finding of paternity. A man seeking paternity must weigh the pros and cons. If paternity is established, then the man will have an easier time seeking visitation rights, but he may have a legal obligation to pay child support.
Presumption of Paternity
There are two presumptions that a man is the father of a child. With such a presumption, the man has a legal obligation to pay child support. The two presumptions are:
- The person is named on a child’s birth certificate as the father.
- The child is born to a married couple.
Rebutting the Presumption
In order to be free from child support obligations, the man must disprove the presumption.
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.
Exception to Rebutting the Presumption
Many states have laws that allow a husband to contest paternity (usually through DNA testing) within a certain period of time after the child is born. However, some states require the father to exercise the right within a period of time. If the father does not execute the right, then the state will treat him as the legal father and he will be obligated to pay child support and will not be able to contest paternity.
To avoid this legal burden, a man who suspects that he is not the father of the child request 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.
Consulting an Attorney
An experienced family law lawyer can help you obtain DNA testing and file the necessary paperwork to contest paternity. He can also protect your assets.