How Is Paternity Established For Child Support?

Posted on: 28 October 2019


Child support is a potentially thorny topic, whether you were married to your ex-partner or not. The court will consider a large number of factors when dealing with a child support case, but one of the first and most crucial is the issue of paternity. For most married couples, this issue is relatively straightforward. Absent other evidence or allegations, a man who was married at the time that a child was conceived will be named the presumed father. For children of unmarried couples, establishing paternity can be trickier.

Admitted Paternity vs. Alleged Paternity

In some cases, especially in equitable divorces, there may not be any significant roadblocks to establishing paternity. An unmarried man who does not wish to dispute his paternity status can acknowledge that he is the biological father of a child. It is rare for acknowledgments such as this to be challenged, so such a statement is generally sufficient to establish paternity. Certain conditions may lead to an unmarried man being seen as the presumed father in the eyes of the court as well, although the requirements for this can vary from state to state.

In cases where the court cannot name a presumed father, the alleged father must be provided with an opportunity to disprove paternity. This opportunity usually comes in the form of a DNA-based paternity test. While it is the court's responsibility to provide this option, the alleged father must still respond to the request promptly. If the offer for a paternity test is refused, the court may presume parentage and move forward with an on-going support case.

Potential Paternity Complications

As with any aspect of a court case, many potential complications can arise while establishing paternity. Paternity is generally a non-issue for married couples, but a presumed father has a limited window of time to dispute his paternity status. In these cases, it is the presumed father's responsibility to prove that he is not the biological father of the child or children in question. The court is not required to provide a DNA test or other options.

Challenging Paternity Results

It is essential to understand that courts place a high degree of faith in the results of DNA paternity tests. While these tests are not infallible, they are accurate enough that mistakes are exceptionally rare. A test may provide inaccurate results under some unusual circumstances, but judges will often view challenges to lab results as frivolous without compelling evidence. If you have good reason to believe that the results of a paternity test provided to a court are inaccurate, then it is best to consult with a family law attorney as soon as possible. Most issues surrounding paternity have a limited time window for action, making prompt legal consultation vital.