Whether a father is present throughout the pregnancy, birth, and formative years of his child’s life or not, officially establishing paternity provides the best path to having his parentage recognized. Establishing paternity is crucial whether you will be seeking child support, custody, or are trying to get through a messy divorce. And yet, you would be very surprised to see just how many cases are decided in the United States family court system where DNA testing and officially establishing paternity is a right that ends up being voluntarily waived.
Paternity Assumed and Maternity is Accepted as Fact
Biologically speaking, mothers are assumed to be the parent of their child because their conditions can be physically observed. It goes without saying that maternity is pretty much a foolproof matter, except in rare cases where babies are accidentally switched at birth. By contrast, paternity can only be assumed when actual testing is performed. Check the paternity laws in your area before you head into family court and avoid voluntarily acknowledging paternity if you have even the slightest doubt. An attorney can provide more guidance on how paternity is established and recognized by the courts in your local jurisdiction.
Establishing Paternity Serves as a Form of Unofficial Discovery
During a family court case, there may be discovery, and there may even be depositions. In a lot of the cases though, litigants simply plead their cases to the overseeing judges. You might even get to bring in some evidence to help support your case. A piece of paper that establishes paternity is seen as fact in the family court system. And since you can establish paternity early on, it is kind of similar to the discovery process. Both you, the mother, and the child will need to submit DNA to have paternity established, and this data can either break or make your case.
It Is Difficult to Undo Final Decisions and Consent Agreements in Family Court
Even in the most extreme types of cases encountered in family court, a party cannot simply undo a final decision because they so desire. For instance, a parent who suddenly decides that they no longer want to pay support and wishes to relinquish their parental rights may be completely unable to do so. At best, they may be able to re-open a formerly closed and settled case if there is merit, but they will still have to wait months and months before an initial hearing. Simply put, once the parties to a family court case come to an agreement or have their case decided, they should consider that decision binding. So, in other words, figuring whether or not you are the father of the child that is the center of your case is one of the first steps you should take, not the last.
Unfortunately, without a DNA test, paternity can only be assumed or voluntarily acknowledged. Having proof that you are indeed the biological father of the child that proceeding in family court over can help you to feel reassured that you are doing the right thing. In addition, establishing paternity only makes you look like a more responsible and involved father.