How to Establish Paternity

Paternity establishment is a legal process by which a man admits or is declared the legal father of a child. It can be a confusing process to establish paternity for your child especially in court. However, with some basic information you will know how to establish paternity. There is more than one way to establish paternity and it is important that you know all methods.

If you had a child with a man who you were never married to, you may need to establish paternity for your child or else that man would not have any legal rights or responsibility to the child. On the other hand, if a man believes a woman had a child for him, he could also take her to court to establish paternity. It is important to note that paternity could also be established outside of court.

1) Acknowledgement of Paternity

If you want to establish paternity for your child outside of court then the only way to do so is to have the alleged father sign an "Acknowledgement of Paternity" (AOP) form. The AOP form is a document that a man signs to accept legal responsibility for a child as well as have rights to a child. Usually when a woman gives birth, the nurse would come with an AOP form and ask about the father of the child(ren). If the man is in the hospital, then the nurse will give him the form to fill out. The mother also has to fill out the form and there has to be a witness. After an AOP document is signed, depending on the state you live in, there is a thirty-ninety day window of time to revoke the document; either the mother or father could cancel an AOP form. After the deadline to cancel an AOP has passed, either parent has to go to court to file a "Motion to Revoke an Acknowledgement of Paternity." An AOP can be filled out anytime during a child's life.

2) Paternity Petition

If for any reason a man and woman can't agree on the paternity of the child, then both parties can file a paternity petition. A paternity petition is basically a petition asking the court to decide the paternity of a child. A paternity petition could also be filed in the case of a woman being married at the time of giving birth and wanting the rightful biological father to be the legal father. By law when a woman gives birth and she is married, her husband is considered the father of the child; if another man wants to be the legal father of the child he may have to go to court. When filing the petition the court clerk will ask you for as much information about the child and the other parent as possible. If you are a woman you may need to provide the child's birth certificate. It is important to note that just because a man's name is on the birth certificate doesn't make him the legal father. The clerk will file the necessary paperwork and give you a court date.

3) Paternity Hearing

At the paternity hearing, the judge will ask both sides questions relating to the relationship the parties had with one another. If you are a female then the judge may ask you about your marital status and if you had sex anyone else 30 days before or after conception. The paternity hearing can get very personal but humans are reproduced very personally (sexual intercourse); therefore, judges are only trying to get to the truth. Depending on the situation, the judge may adjourn the hearing and order a paternity test to determine if the man is the biological father of the child. If the man is brought into court by the mother or adult child, then he has the opportunity to admit that he is the father in court and no further action needs to be done.

4) Paternity Test

A paternity test is a genetic marker test to see if a man is the biological father of a child. In a legal proceeding, the identidy of all parties has to be indentified at the lab. To verify identidy the sample collector will ask for government issued identification (e.g driver's license, passport), a social security number, and figerprints. The sample collector will also take a picture of all parties involved. The testing process in the lab itself is a bit more complex and harder to explain. The scientist studying the samples will compare the alleles on the child, mother, and father's genes. A paternity test could be done without the mother but the accuracy of the test is 100% when the mother submits a sample. It only takes about two days for the results to come back. You may receive the results in the mail way before the next hearing.

5) Order of Filliation

An order of filliation is a court order declaring a man the legal father of a child. Juges usually enter the order of filliation after getting the results of the paternity test. Depending on the jurisdiction, the results of a peternity test needs to be at least a 95% possibility of paternity or higher. Either the man or woman could challenge the order but if a paternity test was ordered it would be virtually impossible to have the order reversed because paternity tests are very accurate.

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