There are several circumstances in which the paternity of a child may be in doubt and may need to be proven in order to enter a child support order. While there are cases in which a man is unaware of his fatherhood until he is ordered into court to take a DNA test, in other cases a man may believe himself to be the father of a child until evidence shows that he is not.
Unfortunately, this issue can be extremely painful and divisive for everyone involved. In an effort to help support the rights of children to have the benefit of support from both parents, the family court system has devised a system of rules that are applied any time there is a question of paternity.
How Paternity is Determined
The word “paternity” is sometimes misused, so the courts often use the term “parentage” instead. Legal parentage is a complicated matter and is decided based on the current circumstances of the child. A legal father may not necessarily be the biological father and vice versa.
In general terms, parentage is established by biology. If a DNA test determines paternity and there is no legal father in the picture, the biological father is obligated to support the child, whether he and the mother ever married or not. Even if the father did not know that he had a child, he may be required to pay both current and back child support payments unless he can establish that there is a good legal reason for him not to do so.
However, there are also cases where the legal father of a child is not the biological parent. For example, if a man marries a woman who becomes pregnant by another man, the husband may be the legal father of the child for many years before the paternity issue is discovered. In this case, the courts may lean toward establishing the existing father as the legal parent rather than the unknown biological father. However, if the biological father chooses to assert his paternity rights, it is possible that the courts may allow him to do so.
Finally, a non-biological parent may legally adopt a child. If that is the case, the adoptive father is responsible for child support and may request custody and visitation if a divorce occurs, just as a biological parent can.
These types of paternity and custody issues are complicated, and participants to these cases often require the assistance of a family law attorney. The attorneys at Men’s Legal Center in San Diego may be able to help. Call today for a consultation about your case.