In the event you are not married when a child is born, the father of the child does not necessarily have any rights or responsibilities for the child. If you are the mother of the child, that means the father will not be required to financially support the child until he is determined to be the father. If you are the father, that means you will not have any custodial rights and may not be able to see the child until you are determined to be the father.
There are a few different ways an individual can be recognized as the father of a recently born child. First, the parties can sign an affidavit or acknowledgement of paternity at the hospital shortly after the child is born. An affidavit or acknowledgment of paternity should only be signed if you are absolutely certain that you are the father of the child. Or, conversely, if you are the mother of the child and are absolutely certain the individual signing the affidavit is the father of the child.
If an affidavit or acknowledgement of paternity is not signed, either at the hospital shortly after the child is born or at some point thereafter, then the most common manner with which to establish paternity is through the filing of a Child Support Complaint by the mother against the person believed to be the father. The filing of a Child Support Complaint will prompt the scheduling of an initial conference with the Domestic Relations Section of the county in which it is filed. At the initial conference, a caseworker with Domestic Relations will ask if the Defendant is willing to sign an acknowledgement of paternity, thereby affirming that he is the father of the child. If the Defendant will not sign the acknowledgement of paternity, a hearing will be scheduled before a Judge to determine if a paternity test should be ordered.
The other manner with which to establish paternity of the child is through the filing of Custody Complaint and/or a Petition to Request Genetic Testing. If you believe you are the father of a recently born child, you have the right to file a Custody Complaint or a Petition to Request Genetic Testing against the mother of the child. If the mother of the child is not married, the court will hear evidence from both parties regarding their respective positions as to why or why not a genetic test should not be ordered, but it is very likely that, regardless of mother’s position, the court will order genetic testing of the child to determine if the person who filed the Custody Complaint or Petition to Request Genetic Testing is the father of the child.
If the mother of the child is married when she gives birth, but an outside, third party believes he is the father of the child; the legal doctrine of the Presumption of Paternity will be implicated. In short, the Presumption of Paternity states that a child born to a married woman is presumed to be the child of the woman’s husband, regardless of biology. Meaning, a third party could be prevented from seeing his child if a mother and her husband wish to raise the child as their own. However, this area of the law is quickly evolving and recent appellate cases suggest that the Presumption of Paternity may not bar a third party from obtaining a genetic test of the child, regardless of the mother’s and husband’s intentions. As such, if you find yourself in this position, it is imperative that you schedule an initial consultation with the attorneys of Sweeney & Neary to ensure your rights are vigorously advocated for before the Court.
Once paternity is established, either by agreement or court Order, the Defendant will then be required to financially support the child and, further, will have various custodial rights that are discussed at more length in the custody section of our website.
Whether you are the mother in a situation where the father of your child is refusing to accept responsibility, or the Defendant in a Child Support action for a that may not be yours, it is imperative that you retain legal counsel to ensure your rights are protected to the fullest extent.