What is Paternity and how is it Determined?

On behalf of The Law Offices of Cindy D. Sackrin posted in Paternity on Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

Paternity determinations can have significant legal and emotional implications. Because important issues such as child support can be based on paternity determinations, some people may wonder what paternity is and how it is determined? Paternity refers to the paternal parentage of a child or, in other words, the identity of the biological father of a child.

For children born in wedlock, paternity is presumed. The biological father is presumed to be the husband of the mother of the child. For children who are not born to married parents, paternity may be established but is not presumed. A determination of paternity can provide important emotional and financial support for children. Child support is one of the most obvious implications for the establishment of paternity, however, establishing paternity can also be useful for custody and visitation; inheritance; and healthcare issues.

As noted, there are different methods of establishing paternity. Paternity can be established through voluntary acknowledgment or when a man holds a child out to be his own. It can be important that such a voluntary acknowledgment is placed in some type of writing. A paternity action can also be initiated with the court when paternity is in dispute. In some circumstances, the government may become involved in a paternity dispute and the establishment of paternity. In such circumstances, paternity will be established through DNA testing ordered by the court.

Once paternity is established and entered by the court, issues such as child support, child custody and visitation can be resolved. Additionally, a paternity determination may allow a child to inherit from its father, enjoy Social Security benefits if the father dies or becomes disabled, receive a wrongful death award in relevant circumstances and access to important medical history information. Legally establishing paternity has a multitude of benefits which is why parents should be familiar with the process and implications of paternity.

Source: Office of Child Support Enforcement, "Establishing Paternity for a Child Born Out of Wedlock," Accessed August 23, 2014

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