If two parents are not married when their child is born, the child does not have a "legal father". Paternity establishment is the legal determination of fatherhood.
Paternity establishment is important for many reasons. Paternity must be established before child support or medical support can be ordered. In nearly all areas of the law, establishing paternity grants children born out of wedlock legal equality with children born during a marriage. In addition, the medical histories of both parents are essential to the healthy development of a child. Further, it is the right of both the child and the father to have a parental relationship established.
The father may acknowledge paternity by completing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit at the hospital, local registrar's office, or the CSED. Signing the form is voluntary, and if the alleged father is unsure of paternity, he should ask for genetic testing before signing. Genetic testing can also be court ordered if there is no voluntary admission to paternity or voluntary submission to the testing.
Genetic testing may be done by buccal swabs. The specimen is collected by gently rubbing the cheek inside of the mouth with long swabs, similar to Q-tips. The DNA test utilized with buccal swab specimens is the same DNA test utilized with blood specimens. These tests are used in courts throughout the country and are more than 99% accurate.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What are the benefits of establishing paternity?
A. Paternity establishment can provide basic emotional, social and economic ties between a father and his child. Once paternity is established legally, a child gains legal rights and privileges. Among these may be rights to inheritance, rights to the father's medical and life insurance benefits, social security and possibly veteran's benefits. The child also has a chance to develop a relationship with the father, and to develop a sense of identity and connection to the "other half" of his or her family.
Q. What will the enforcement caseworker need to know to try to establish paternity?
A. The caseworker needs as much information as you can give about the alleged father and the facts about your relationship with him, your pregnancy, and the birth of your child. Some of these questions may be personal. States must keep the information that you give confidential.
Q. What if he denies he is the father, or he's not sure?
A. Paternity can be determined by the evidence presented in court, including highly accurate tests conducted on the man, mother and child. Genetic test results indicate a probability of paternity and can establish a legal determination of paternity. These tests can exclude a wrongly accused man and can also indicate the likelihood of paternity if he is not excluded. All parties in a contested paternity case must submit to genetic tests at the request of either party.
Q. What happens if I am not sure who the father is?
A. When more than one man could be the father of a baby, each may be required to take a genetic test. These tests are highly accurate, and it is almost always possible to determine who fathered a baby and to rule out anyone who did not.
Genetic Testing vs. Paternity Achknowledgement
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