Establishing the identity of a child’s biological father can have far-reaching consequences. Paternity affects a number of rights, including a child’s right to inherit, the father’s obligation to provide for the child’s financial support and eligibility for a number of state and federal government benefits. Also, a father may suffer from a genetica disease, and proving paternity can help treat a child if they have been affected by the disease.
Paternity is most easily established when the biological father signs a “Declaration of Acknowledgement of Paternity” in which he formally admits that he is the father of the child. A declaration of paternity must be signed in front of a notary public and two witnesses. A man who has signed a declaration may annul it at any time within 60 days of signing it. A court can also annul the declaration if the signer can prove that his signature was obtained by fraudulent means.
If the alleged father denies paternity, the mother may be required to commence a court proceeding. The person seeking to establish paternity must submit evidence showing that the man is the father. Such evidence may include proof of a sexual relationship near the time of conception or witnesses who heard the putative father admit paternity.
Perhaps the most persuasive evidence is DNA samples from the putative father, the mother and the child. The court can order DNA testing if asked to do so by either parent. If the man refuses the DNA test, the court can either hold him in contempt or simply declare that the child is his. A man charged with paternity is entitled to introduce evidence to rebut the allegations of the mother. In such cases, the court will make the final decision.
Paternity can be a complex issue, and anyone who wants to prove paternity may wish to seek legal advice from an attorney who practices family law.