Paternity Suit FAQs

What is the process for legally determining the father of a child?

In the absence of any agreement between the parents, the alleged father or the mother or in some cases, the child can file a paternity lawsuit. Most paternity lawsuits are filed to enforce financial or moral obligations, gain visitation rights or to determine other issues between the parents.

In a paternity lawsuit, the judge can order a DNA testing which can conclusively determine whether or not the alleged father is indeed the biological father of the child. Once the determination is done the judge can decide on the issues in controversy between the parents.

Can any other person other than the biological father be legally recognized as the father?

Yes. It is possible for a person other than the biological father can be legally recognized as the father. But determining the legal paternity is a complex process often involving heated arguments from the “alleged father” and the person filing the lawsuit. The exact process and standard for determining paternity varies from state to state. Please check with your state laws.

Once a person is legally recognized as the father, it is difficult to change the paternity and the person will have to financially support the child in the absence of an agreement to the contrary with the mother.

Acknowledged Father

An acknowledged father is one who is the biological father of the child born to unmarried parents but admits that he has fathered the child. Acknowledged fathers must pay child support.

Presumed Father

If paternity is contested, a man may be presumed to the father if:

• at the time the child was conceived or born, he was married to the mother

• at the time the child was conceived or born, he attempted to marry the mother

• he voluntarily put his name on the child’s birth certificate or agreed to financially and morally support the child and married the child’s mother after the child was born

• he holds out the child as his own and the child was welcomed into his home after the child was born

Equitable Father

An equitable father is someone other than the biological or adoptive father having a close relationship with the child or the biological parents encourage such relationship. Non-biological fathers often make claims of being the equitable father in divorce proceedings when seeking custody and visitation rights.

Generally, when the child and a person other than the biological or adoptive parent shares a close child parent relationship, the court can grant such person custody rights as the equitable parent.

A man will be considered the equitable father if:

• the relationship is acknowledged by the child and himself as a father child relationship

• he intended to have all rights generally afforded to a parent

• the husband will ready and willing to pay child support

The concept of equitable father is not recognized in all states. Please check with your state laws.

Unwed Father

Unwed father is the person who impregnates the mother of the child but does not marry her. The law grants fewer rights to unwed fathers than married fathers. Unmarried fathers seeking visitation or custody must establish paternity. If the child has a presumed father, getting visitation, custody or other fatherly rights will be difficult.

Is a man responsible for paying child support if paternity is established?

Once paternity is proved, the father can be ordered to pay child support. The child will have the right to inherit from the father and all other rights which a biological child will have from the father. The father can also seek custody and visitation rights.

If the father does not pay child support, the court will take measures to enforce the payment. Even if he absconds, he will be tracked down and made to pay. Child support payments are generally enforced through wage garnishments, property liens, holding back tax refunds and even imprisonment. Seek the assistance of an experienced child support attorney in your state if you want to enforce child support payments.

I cannot afford to file a paternity lawsuit. What can I do?

The cost and expenses associated with a paternity lawsuit can be very high but there is no fee for the actual paternity test. Most states do not charge a fee to the mother seeking to establish paternity. The state child support agency will file the lawsuit on behalf of such mothers. The Temporary Aid to Needy Families program provides states with funding for such lawsuits.

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