Chandler paternity lawyer
Representing clients in Mesa, Gilbert, Mesa, and other Phoenix Valley communities in paternity and other family law matters
Paternity is an aspect of family law that is frequently discussed and just as frequently misunderstood. It is important to understand what constitutes paternity, how it can be determined, and how it is addressed in family law proceedings. It is also important to seek the assistance of an experienced Chandler paternity lawyer in any paternity matter.
Definition of paternity
Simply put, paternity is the determination of who the father of a particular child is. If the mother is married at the time of a live birth or up to 10 months either way, paternity is presumed to reside in her then-husband. The hospital automatically lists him as the father on the birth certificate unless the mother says to leave it blank or enter someone else’s name.
If the baby is born to unmarried parents, all bets are off as to paternity. An exception to this is voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. In this situation, a man who knows or reasonably believes himself to be the father of a child agrees in a signed written statement that he is the dad and that he accepts shared parental responsibility for the child.
When the identity of the father is unclear
Sometimes a mother is intimate with more than one man around the time she conceives a child. In such a situation, she may be no more sure who the biological father is than her partners. Regardless of your view of the possible moral issues involved, the reality is that having multiple sex partners greatly complicates the determination of paternity.
To figure out who is responsible for helping the mother care and provide for her child, genetic testing of the mother, child, and possible fathers may need to be performed. Costs can run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the type of testing conducted, the number of males to be tested, and how quickly the true father is found.
If a particular prospect is unwilling to participate in testing, the mother might need to get a court order to compel him to submit to the test. Usually, the test involves a cotton swab of cheek cells inside the mouth or, in some cases, a blood draw. Most DNA labs’ results are guaranteed to be 99.99 percent accurate. The court requires only 95 percent accuracy.
The importance of determining paternity
Knowing the identity of the father can help decide many other family court issues. A judge must determine paternity by written order before establishing child custody, parenting time, child support, or anything else that affects a child’s welfare. If the mother falsely claims that someone is the father only in an effort to get child support out of that person, she can be held in contempt of court, and may face sanctions.
If either parent is a minor when paternity is established, the child’s grandparents may also be held responsible for child support for the grandchild, at least until the mother and father turn 18.
Complications that can arise in a paternity case
Even when heroic efforts are made to try to determine the actual father, sometimes it simply is impossible. This may be because the father does not want to be found, is unavailable, or otherwise cannot be located. Sometimes the father’s identity cannot be discerned. For example, the mother may have been raped by a masked man. She may have been extremely intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of sexual relations. Or she may simply not know the father’s name or address.
When paternity cannot be established, the saddest part is the negative impact on the child. After all, the child is completely innocent and had no choice in being conceived or choosing his or her parents. The child not only might not get any of the child support to which he or she is entitled, but also may never be able to enjoy any kind of relationship with the biological father. Even when a stepparent, adoptive father, or other relative steps forward to help raise the child, the child may spend the rest of his or her life wondering and never knowing who the biological father was.