A lot of people don't really understand the laws regarding paternity -- which can end up leaving them heartbroken and angry in the end.
If you think you're about to become a father, these are some facts you need to understand:
1. The laws haven't caught up with science.
Today, a DNA test is easy enough to perform and you can quickly determine paternity -- often even before the baby is even born.
However, the law automatically assigns you "presumptive" paternity if you were married to the mother when she conceived the baby or when she gave birth -- even if you were physically separated and you know you can't really be the baby's biological father.
Unless you take swift action to refute paternity, you are going to be legally and financially responsible for that child until he or she turns 18-years-old (or even older, in some cases). That makes it critical to take swift action if you are questioning whether or not you really are the father of your wife's child.
2. An unmarried father has no rights until he claims them.
By contrast, an unmarried father has no legal rights to his child until he has claimed them. That means, without the mother's consent, you cannot:
- Visit the child
- Have the child visit you
- Ask for custody if the mother is unable to care for the child for any reason
- Have any say in the child's education
- Have any say in the child's religious upbringing
- Have any say about where the child lives
That can be devastating for a father who wants to be part of his or her child's life. The only way to establish paternity is to ask the court to order a paternity test -- a simple DNA test that won't hurt the child in any way. However, the sooner you act, the better -- otherwise, the mother may claim that your delay was essentially abandonment.
It's always wisest to consult an attorney if you're dealing with a serious legal issue. If you're interested in more information about how our firm approaches cases involving the rights of fathers, please visit our webpages.