There is no doubt about it: families can be complicated. In a perfect world, family members (especially parents) would all get along, adults would always prioritize the best interests of children, and children would always know their parents and have wonderful, loving relationships with them.
Sadly, this, of course, is not always the case. Too often parents don’t consider the effect their behavior has on their children. Too often parents don’t want to take responsibility for their children. Too often parents try to alienate each other from their children.
This is where prenatal paternity tests may be helpful in order to preserve legal rights of each parent or hold the other parent accountable.
There are several kinds of paternity tests. After a baby is born, a blood sample can be collected from the baby’s umbilical cord, which would be tested to determine the baby’s father. A swab of the baby’s cheek can also be tested to determine the baby’s DNA. However, these are options to test paternity after the baby is born.
As of 2019, there are many kinds of paternity tests that can also be done before the baby is born, in some cases as early as seven weeks gestation. Some types of tests are more invasive requiring a doctor to go into the baby’s amniotic sac or the mother’s uterus. But, other tests are non-invasive and only require a blood sample from the mother.
It is possible to wait until after the baby is born to establish paternity. However, there may be times in which it is important to perform a paternity test before a baby is born.
Paternity may impact several aspects of the baby’s and mother’s lives including: the child’s ability to inherit from their father’s estate, the child’s ability to inherit veteran’s benefits or social security benefits from their father, establishing custody and visitation schedules, obtaining child support, an understanding of the child’s medical history to better provide medical care for the child, and more.
Each parent may have specific reasons for needing a prenatal paternity test. A mother may want or need to collect child support on behalf of her unborn child. Pregnancy can be expensive.
Between prenatal vitamins and numerous doctor’s appointments plus ultrasounds and other medical tests, pregnancy can take a financial toll. Some states do allow for a mother to seek child support from the baby’s father before the baby is born. However, typically a paternity test is required by the court in such situations. No prenatal paternity test means no child support.
A father may also have an interest in establishing paternity before the baby is born. Some men want very much to be a part of their child’s life. They are willing, able, and eager to take responsibility for their child. However, occasionally, the mother does not want the baby’s biological father in their lives.
Further, if a mother is married, then the child is presumed to be the husband’s child. If a man believes he has fathered a child with a married woman, that man must establish paternity in order to overcome the presumption that the baby is the husband’s child instead.
A father can also sign an affidavit of paternity when the baby is born. This is essentially a voluntary, legal admission of paternity. No paternity test is usually required for this, although some states do require a formal test. There is a risk to a father that someone else could sign this document and become the legal father instead.
For a father who is not married to the baby’s mother, it is critical that the father seek a paternity test in order to secure his rights to custody and visitation of the child.
Unfortunately, there are situations in which one of the parents will not cooperate in determining paternity. In such cases, the father or mother can file a petition with the court ordering a paternity test. Refusing to submit to the paternity test may result in the parent being held in contempt of court.
Once paternity is established, the biological father will become the legal father as well. This means that the court can order child support from the legal father and the child can be a beneficiary of the father’s financial benefits and estate.
Paternity cases are relatively common. If you are unmarried and pregnant then determining custody of your child as soon as possible may help secure yours and your child’s rights and financial resources. On the other hand, if you believe you are the father of a child and wish to be in that child’s life, then it is important that you establish paternity as early as possible.
In a perfect world these measures wouldn’t be necessary. But, unfortunately that is not always so. Contact a family law attorney today to preserve your rights and ensure that your child has the best future possible.