Paternity DNA Testing

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 What is a Paternity Action?

A paternity action, also known as a parentage action, is one of the most commonly recurring issues found in many family law cases. Paternity actions refer to a special type of proceeding wherein a court will determine whether a party is in fact the father of a minor child or not. 

Generally speaking, paternity actions tend to arise in connection with family law cases that involve child custody arrangements, child visitation rights, and/or child support payments. In such cases, it is often necessary for a party to be able to establish paternity in order to receive a ruling in their favor. 

For example, if a party is deemed to be the biological father of a minor child, then the court can order them to pay child support. Paternity actions can also be used to obtain child custody and/or child visitation rights. 

Another reason why a party would want to file a paternity action is to resolve the issue of paternity fraud. Paternity fraud can be committed by either party. For instance, the biological father of a child may deny that they are the child’s actual father to avoid having to pay child support or engage in any other activity that they may be legally obligated to do as the father of a minor child. 

In addition, the mother of a minor child can also claim that a person is the child’s real father to be able to receive benefits. Again, if the mother can prove that the claim is true, then the father can be ordered to make child support payments. 

On the other hand, if the mother is not able to prove that the other party is the father of the child, then the paternity action can serve to protect the party against orders to pay child support or provide any other types of support to the child.

Finally, one last factor that is important to keep in mind in regard to paternity actions is that only four parties have standing to file parentage actions. These parties include the possible father, the mother, the child in question, and the state. However, there are some exceptions to the standing rule. Thus, if you are not one of the four parties listed, but need to file a paternity action, you should consult a local family law attorney to find out if you qualify for an exception. 

What Is DNA Testing and How Is It Performed?

A paternity test is a type of medical exam in which a party will undergo DNA testing for paternity reasons. In most cases, DNA testing will involve the alleged father providing a sample of their DNA to a lab where lab technicians can analyze it and determine whether or not they are the biological father of a specified child. 

It should be noted that although DNA paternity testing kits are sold over the counter at many pharmacies, the test must be done in a medical setting when it is for legal purposes like a paternity action. With that in mind, there are two common paternity test methods that doctors and lab technicians prefer to use when performing DNA testing: cheek swabs and blood tests. Both have a 99.9% rate of accuracy for identifying when a party is not the father.

While these two paternity test methods are the primary methods employed when it comes to DNA testing for paternity, it is also possible to establish paternity through the mother before a child is born. This will involve various methods of extracting DNA samples from the mother during pregnancy, including blood tests, tissue samples from the placenta, and/or fluid samples from the liquid surrounding the fetus (i.e., the amniotic fluid).

What Else Should I Know About DNA Testing?

There are many factors to consider when attempting to establish paternity through DNA testing. For instance, once paternity is established, the father will have a duty to pay child support. However, while this may be an advantage, the mother should know that the father will also gain certain legal rights like the right to share custody or visit the child. If the father is abusive or dangerous, child support might not be worth the risk of giving them access. 

In addition, some DNA tests are not as accurate as others. There may also be issues with the lab, such as a clerical error, a lab technician made a mistake, or there was a mix-up of DNA samples. This could become a huge problem if it is not immediately fixed since the DNA test results will likely affect the outcome of the paternity action.  

One last thing to know about DNA testing is that some tests are more expensive than others. While the parties may be able to choose which type of test is used to establish paternity, they will not always be able to request which of the parties will have to pay for it. 

For instance, the court may order that either both parties have to pay, only the party receiving the test, the government has to pay, or if the parties are considered indigent, then the state may have to pay for the exam on their behalf. Thus, it is important to think about all of these things before going through with a DNA test.

Are There Alternatives to Establishing Paternity, Other Than DNA Testing?

Aside from DNA testing, there are several other alternatives that can be used for paternity establishment. For instance, paternity can be established automatically either by: 

  • The father submitting an affidavit to the court and swearing as much; 
  • Providing a copy of the child’s birth certificate that contains the father’s name; or 
  • A court order. 

Many courts will also presume that if a child was born during the parties’ marriage, then the husband is the child’s biological father.

A stepfather or adoptive parent may also be considered the child’s father if they have already assumed the role for a long period of time. In other words, a court may still legally recognize that a party is the father of a child even if they are not genetically linked to that child. Thus, many courts will maintain that a party who takes care of the child as a parental figure or has adopted the child as their own are all actions that can be used to establish paternity.  

Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with Paternity DNA Testing Matters?

Paternity actions involving DNA testing issues are one of the most commonly litigated topics in a family law courtroom. However, the outcome of such lawsuits will not only have an impact on the parties to a case, but will also affect the lives of their children as well. 

Thus, if you are experiencing any issues with paternity DNA testing or are involved in a dispute over paternity DNA testing, then it may be in your best interest to hire a local family law attorney immediately for further assistance with the matter. An experienced family law attorney will be able to offer legal advice regarding your options on how to resolve your paternity dispute. 

Some other benefits that you can gain from hiring a lawyer for paternity cases may include the following:

  • Your attorney will be able to assist you in drafting and preparing any necessary legal documents; 
  • Depending on the facts of your matter, your attorney can help you file a lawsuit with the appropriate court or file a counterclaim against the opposing party;
  • Your attorney can also ensure that your rights and interests are sufficiently protected, regardless of whether you are the father of a child or not; and
  • If you need to appear in court, your attorney will be able to provide legal representation during any scheduled court proceedings that are connected to your matter. 

Finally, a family law attorney can also assist you with additional family law issues that are associated with the paternity testing matter. For instance, if you need to amend the amount you pay in child support payments or would like to petition for the right to child visitation, your attorney can help with these matters as well.

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