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Paternity 101

The American legal system rarely has trouble discerning who a child’s biological mother is because of hospital records. Mothers are often afforded stronger parental rights because of their direct and special relationship to their children. Fathers also have parental rights by law, but it is sometimes difficult to determine whom the father is. Unlike mothers, biological fathers aren’t a necessity during childbirth.

Under common law, any child born during a marriage is presumed to be a product of that union. This is not always true and may be contested with evidence to the contrary. In any legal action involving parental rights or child custody, determining paternity is crucial in figuring out the best way to approach the issue. In a paternity dispute, the court will usually order a DNA test. The DNA is often taken from the presumed father by a cheek swab instead of by taking blood. If a presumed father doesn’t contest the paternity, he is declared to be the father even if he actually is not.

Even if a man is shown not to be the biological father by a paternity test, that doesn’t automatically close the case. A man who has been acting as a father may still be entitled to parental rights and responsibilities. He may even adopt the children with consent of the biological father (if his identity is known). Each case hinges on unique facts that lawyers at the Mandel Law Firm and elsewhere can help you understand.

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