Paternity Disputes Lawyer
In this era where paternity disputes are played out on the Jerry Springer television show for entertainment purposes, the issue of paternity remains a serious one. Paternity refers to determining the child’s father and the rights and obligations associated with parenthood.
Under Massachusetts and New Hampshire law and the laws of many states, if your child is born during the marriage the husband is presumed to be the father. If you are unmarried, you can voluntarily accept paternity as the biological father; provided the mother agrees and you both sign in front of a notary a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage” and have it filed with the Registry of Vital records. Your name as the father will be added to the child’s birth certificate or later added if this is done after the mother and child leave the hospital.
Involuntary Paternity Determination
There are, of course, situations where the alleged father disputes his parentage or desires to be determined as the biological father and the mother is resisting his allegation. In these cases, a “Complaint to Establish Paternity” can be filed by any of the following parties:
- Alleged father
- Child’s guardian
- Representative of a state public assistance program if the child is receiving such benefits
DNA testing is 99% accurate in determining paternity and is performed with a simple cotton swab test. The court can order DNA or genetic testing in cases of disputed paternity. This can result in some odd situations where a father who has been paying thousands of dollars in support for years turns out not be the biological father but may be required to continue making child support payments nonetheless, especially if he wishes to continue seeing the child whom he has been seeing on a regular basis for several years. This is a situation where a paternity dispute attorney can provide you with much needed legal advice regarding your available options.
Rights and Obligations of Paternity
A man who is determined by DNA testing, or who is presumed the father in the absence of testing, results in the creation of certain obligations and rights. These include an obligation to pay child support, the right to physical custody or visitation by the father and the child’s right to inheritance from the father’s estate. The father can also request that he have legal custody or a say in the major decisions in his child’s life including those that involve education and medical matters or which concern the child’s general welfare.
Issue may arise regarding custody or visitation by the father, especially if he waited months or years before acknowledging paternity or being determined as such by DNA testing. A court may view a belated request to become involved in the child’s life with some suspicion at least in regards to wanting physical custody. The court should grant visitation rights unless there are allegations of misconduct or abuse that may pose a risk to the child. In such cases, supervised or limited visitation may be granted.
The Role of a Paternity Disputes Lawyer
Whether it is your goal to establish paternity or to rebut its presumption, a paternity disputes lawyer can help you obtain the necessary court order that can establish certain rights and impose obligations on the father or end them in some cases. Your attorney can also assist you in your right to have a voice in the major decisions affecting your child’s health, safety and education. For a mother and child, a finding of paternity can mean increased financial support and educational opportunities for the child as well as provide orders that are enforceable in court.