Paternity questions during divorce

If your divorce is being complicated by the question of paternity, it is important to know your legal rights. Biological and non-biological fathers of children have a duty of parental responsibility but can settle their case in court appropriately.

If you doubt you are the father

If infidelity played a large role in your decision to divorce, it is understandable that you may have doubts as to the paternity of your children. You will likely want a DNA test performed and considered by a judge during the divorce proceedings.

  • Note: at-home tests are not usually admissible in court.

If you ask the mother for a paternity test, and she refuses, an attorney can explain your legal options. If you have custody or visitation rights, it may be that you have the authority to test without her consent. Or, you can file a court order with the help of a lawyer to demand a paternity test.

  • If you must file a paternity lawsuit while going through divorce, it will cause an expensive delay.

The test’s findings can significantly impact your life. If you are found to be the father, you will have both the peace of mind and the joy of fatherhood to look forward to, including any appropriate child support. If you are not the father, you may still choose to be in the child’s life with the court’s approval. A child almost always benefits from having a strong, stable paternal presence in their life.

If you know the child isn’t yours

If your wife is pregnant or just gave birth and you know the child cannot be yours, you will have specific obligations to avoid paternity fraud and unnecessary expense.

Most courts will not complete a divorce or child custody arrangement until after the mother gives birth and paternity can be established without risk to the child (as in-utero DNA tests can be expensive and dangerous). This is to save time and paperwork for all parties.

This is also because a child born to a married couple is assumed to be the husband’s. It will be the husband’s responsibility to disestablish his paternity. His request may be denied if he already accepted responsibility, such as knowingly signing the birth certificate of a non-biological child. The husband will have to later affirm to the court he is neither delinquent on child support payments nor responsible for any future payments.

Children conceived through surrogacy, step-children or born to same-sex partners are all deserving of their parents’ love and affection. If you can be the role model or father that a child needs in their life, even if you are no longer married to their other parent, you can still grow your parent-child relationship. A divorce only marks the beginning of a new chapter together.

If you doubt you are the father

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