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Paternity Laws

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How Does the Law Recognize a Father of a Child?

The laws of paternity are complex and vary from state to state. Often times the legally recognized father is not the biological father. Here is how most states categorize fathers

  • Acknowledged Father - An acknowledged father is an unmarried man who has admitted to being the child's father. An acknowledged father must usually pay child support.

  • Presumed Father - A presumed father is a married man who:
    • Was married to the mother when the child was conceived or born; or
    • Legally agreed to be the father of his wife's child; or
    • Acted and behaved as if the child was his own.
  • Unwed Father - An unwed father is an unmarried man who has a child with a woman. The unwed father must pay child support if a court finds that he is the biological or acknowledged father. An unwed father who pays child support may also have visitation rights with the child.
  • Stepfather - A stepfather is a man who marries a woman who had a child with another man. Stepfathers have no duty to support the child. However, a stepfather can adopt the stepchild with the stepchild's biological or acknowledged father's consent. If a stepfather legally adopts his stepchild, then he must pay to support the child.

How Does One Go about Enforcing Child Support?

To get child support, one first must typically prove that the man is the legal father of the child. To do this, the man must usually be subjected to a paternity test. This may mean having the alleged father undergo Paternity DNA Testing.

Asking the judge to do this is called a Paternity Action. If the man is a presumed or acknowledged father, then he must pay child support. If the man is neither, then the judge can order the man to have a blood or DNA test.

These tests will determine whether or not the man is biologically related to a child. If the test shows that the man is biologically related to the child, then he will have to pay child support.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Family lawyers can be vital to helping you navigate an often complex and frustrating legal system. If you have questions about paternity, it would be wise to speak to one as soon as possible.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-05-2018 10:06 PM PST

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