There is a difference between legal paternity and biological paternity:
Sometimes, a biological father does not have legal paternity, and vice versa. This can occur when a child is adopted, a stepparent is involved, or a child was conceived during an extramarital affair.
There are certain circumstances where you are presumed to have legal paternity, even if you are not the child’s biological father. You are a legally presumed father if:
Once you establish legal paternity, you have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent. After you acknowledge paternity, you may only have a limited amount of time to contest or dispute paternity. While many states have a two-year time limit, there are many exceptions to this rule. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your state’s laws and procedures.
Most states recognize the importance and value of child-parent relationships (even if they are not based on biological paternity). Many legal fathers play an active role in their children’s lives, regardless of biology. For this reason, you may be responsible for child support, even if you are not the biological father. Sometimes, family lawyers refer to this as “equitable paternity” or “parentage by estoppel.”
You may be considered an equitable (legal) father if:
Again, paternity laws vary from state-to-state. If you have questions about your state’s equitable paternity laws, contact a family law attorney in your community.
Family courts can order a non-biological parent to pay child support if he is a presumed or equitable father. A child support order must focus on the best interests of the child and your state’s child support guidelines. If you have financially and emotionally supported a child for years, it will be difficult to avoid child support payments. However, you may also have significant custody rights. Do not assume that you are ineligible for custody or visitation simply because you are a non-biological father.
Establishing biological paternity is the best way for a non-biological parent to avoid child support. However, many states may still order child support payments if you are an equitable father (especially if the biological father has not been identified).
Child support and custody issues can quickly become contentious. And, paternity laws can be difficult to interpret and understand. If you are a non-biological father, contact a family law attorney for help. An experienced lawyer will evaluate your situation and explain your legal rights and responsibilities.
Last Modified: 03-05-2018 09:57 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.