Paternity Test Laws

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 What is a Paternity Test?

A legal paternity test is a genetic test to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. If a man is the biological father, the man is deemed by law to have “paternity.” Courts will order biological fathers (fathers who have paternity) to pay child support. Biological fathers may also file a petition with a court seeking to adopt the child. Biological fathers may also be given custody and visitation rights.

Can Potential Fathers Refuse to Take Paternity Tests?

The law cannot force a paternity test. This means that a potential father can refuse to submit to testing, even after the mother, child, and other potential fathers have been tested. However, the refusal is not without penalty. When a woman files a lawsuit seeking to establish paternity, the court orders the man to submit to testing. A man’s refusal to be tested can constitute contempt of court.

Contempt of court is punishable by jail time and fines. In addition, a man who refuses to take the test, and otherwise fails to respond to the lawsuit, can have a default judgment taken against them. A default judgment is one that automatically gives a plaintiff (in this case, the mother) the remedy they sought. Remedies include payment of child support. This means that, if a man refuses to submit to paternity testing, the court may order the man to make child support payments.

Can a Potential Father Request a Paternity Test?

A man who alleges that he is a child’s biological father may ask a court to permit him to undergo paternity testing. This request is typically made as part of a lawsuit filed by the man to establish paternity. Lawsuits brought to establish paternity are known as filiation proceedings.

State laws may limit a man’s ability to file a lawsuit to establish paternity. Many states do not permit a man to initiate filiation proceedings if the child has already been in a father-child relationship with their “current” father (who may be the woman’s husband or partner) for a period of years, usually five or more.

The father with whom the child currently resides with is referred to as the presumed father. A presumed father is a man who is the child’s father, for all legal purposes. Presumption of fatherhood, or presumption of paternity, is established when either the father is married to the child’s birth mother, or the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate. The law treats the presumptive father as the legal father, with custodial and legal rights and responsibilities, unless and until a man is able to establish paternity through the paternity test.

How Do I Get a Court-Ordered Paternity Test?

For a court order a paternity test, the man seeking to establish paternity must file a paternity petition in family court. If an individual cannot afford an attorney, and is interested in knowing how to get a court-ordered paternity test without a lawyer, the clerk of the court can assist with providing the filing documents. The clerk cannot give legal advice. At the paternity hearing, the judge hears evidence on the issue of paternity, and reviews the results of any paternity testing.

What Happens if the Father Doesn’t Show up for a Paternity Test?

If a man seeking to establish paternity does not attend the paternity test, the man is in contempt of the court order that required him to do so. The man may be held in contempt of court. In addition, if the man does not appear, the court may grant a default judgment against him. This means the court may dismiss his case.

Can a Mother Refuse a Paternity Test?

A mother may seek to have a man submit to a paternity test. If the test results reveal the man to be the biological father, the mother may seek child support from that person. However, for this to happen, the mother must cooperate during the testing process. If the court requires the mother to take the test, and the mother refuses, paternity will not be established. As a result, the mother’s claim for child support will be dismissed.

Can the Results of a Paternity Test Be Contested?

Court ordered paternity test results can be contested if there is evidence of fraud associated with the test results. Such fraud may include a father’s having another individual take the test, or tampering with the lab results. Additionally, the results may be contested if the father demonstrates that he is infertile or sterile, and thus is incapable of being the biological father.

Do I Need an Attorney for Assistance with Paternity Test Issues?

If you have an issue regarding establishment of paternity, you should contact a family lawyer. An experienced family attorney near you can explain your rights and responsibilities. This attorney can also assist you with filing paternity hearing documents, and can represent you in court.

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