Issues surrounding paternity are often emotionally charged. Mothers may be seeking necessary child support to assist in the raising of a child. Potential fathers may be fighting paternity claims, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, they may be seeking child custody and visitation privileges. In any circumstance, disputes are common. Our attorneys recognize the stress facing both sides of the equation and work with you to set reasonable and achievable outcome goals in your paternity case.
- What is a Paternity case?
- What is an Acknowledgment of Paternity?
- What happens once a man is named as the legal father?
- Who is allowed to start a Paternity case?
- How do I start a Paternity case?
- What happens if the mother was married to another man at the time the child was born?
A Paternity case is a Family Court case that names a child's legal father if the child's parents were not married to each other when the child was born and an Acknowledgement of Paternity was not duly executed.
An Acknowledgment of Paternity is a paper, usually completed at the hospital at the time of a child's birth, where the mother and father state that the man signing the paper is the father of the child. An Acknowledgment of Paternity does the same thing as an Order of Filiation and will permit a hospital or Department of Health to name the man as the child's father on the birth certificate.
The man has the right to ask a court for legal custody or visitation rights to the child. He also has to support the child until the child is 21 years old, in most cases. The child may also be entitled to social security benefits and inheritance rights when these are available as a result of the father-child relationship.
Generally, the following people are allowed to start a Paternity case:
- the child's mother,
- the man who believes he is the father,
- the child or child's guardian, or
- the Department of Social Services if the child is receiving public assistance.
A paternity case started by filing a petition in Family Court. The person who starts the case is called the "petitioner." In most cases, the petitioner is one of the parents. The other parent (the one who did not start the case) is called the "respondent" and must come to court when the court directs.
The mother's husband at the time of the child's birth is the legal father of the child unless the court decides to name a different man based on the evidence. The evidence will usually include court testimony by the mother, by her husband at the time of the child's birth, and by the man who is purported to be the real father. The evidence may also include a genetic marker or DNA test.