Laws on False Paternity

By Brenna Davis

DNA testing is increasingly common and accurate, increasing many people's awareness that the purported father of a child is not always the child's biological father. Legal paternity is the recognition by the government that a man is a child's father. False paternity occurs when a man is inaccurately represented as the child's father, which may be due to an inadvertent error or deliberate misrepresentation. Paternity laws are similar in each state, but each state has minor variations, so consult local laws before pursuing a paternity action.

Married Fathers

Fathers who were legally married to the child's mother at the time of the child's birth are the child's presumed father. They are entitled to visitation and child custody if the parents divorce, and they must pay child support if they no longer live with the child. This paternity, however, may be challenged if another man asserts that he is the father of the child, and he undergoes a paternity test. However, fathers may still be obligated to support their children if they acted as the child's father for an extended period of time. States are influenced by the child's best interests when making paternity decisions, and it is often not in the child's best interests to remove a father from her life.

Unmarried Fathers

Unmarried fathers are not legally acknowledged as the child's father until they or the mother petition the court to acknowledge him as the father. State procedures vary slightly, but typical requirements may include obtaining a paternity test or signing documentation, along with the mother, that the father acknowledges his paternity. After a father becomes the child's legal father, he may be obligated to pay child support and entitled to custody or visitation with the child. Men should not sign voluntary acknowledgments unless they are certain they are the child's father, because it is difficult to be removed as the legal father once you have signed such documentation.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Disproving Paternity

After a father has been established as the child's legal father, he may only disprove paternity by taking a paternity test or when another man takes a paternity test demonstrating that he is the biological father. In some states, the legal father may then petition the court to be removed as the child's legal father. Some states allow legal fathers to disprove paternity at any time; others only allow it while a child is still a baby. And in some states, men may not attempt to disprove paternity at all, and the only way to disprove paternity is via a paternity claim from another man. In many cases, however, if the father has served as the child's parent for several years, the court may still classify him as the child's legal father. If there is not another father willing to fill the role or if removing the father is not in the best interests of the child, non-biological fathers may still be classified as legal fathers, obligating them to pay child support. This is why it is important to be absolutely certain the child is yours before signing a birth certificate or signing a stipulation to paternity.

Paternity Fraud

Paternity fraud, which occurs when a mother tricks a man into believing he is a child's father, is extremely difficult to prove. It is not sufficient simply to prove that the man is not the child's biological father. Instead, the accuser must demonstrate that the mother knowingly and willingly misled the father. Some states, such as Florida and Iowa, permit men to sue for paternity fraud to recover back child support payments and other payments made to the mother or the child.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
In a Divorce Am I Responsible for Kids That Are Not Mine?


Related articles

Forms to File for a Paternity Lawsuit

A paternity lawsuit is a legal proceeding that asks a court to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. Paternity lawsuits are usually filed by a man seeking to prove or disprove his paternity of a child or by a woman attempting to legally establish that a man is the biological father of her child. Sometimes a child's court-appointed guardian or a social services agency will file a paternity lawsuit. The forms to file for a paternity lawsuit vary by state, but there are some similarities.

Can You Receive Child Support if a Child Was Not Legally Adopted?

Child support is financial aid one parent pays to the other as a contribution toward the food, shelter, medical care and other necessities for his minor children. Although currently courts mandate child support payments only for biological or adoptive parents, an adult can agree to make child support payments for a stepchild he has never formally adopted.

Father's Procedure in Filing for Child Custody in Missouri

Child custody decisions in Missouri are made according to the child's best interests, and the procedure for both mothers and fathers who seek custody is the same. However, fathers cannot seek custody until they have proven paternity of the child; there is some evidence that fathers may have to work harder than mothers to get custody of their children. As awareness grows that children need both parents, however, more fathers are obtaining custody of their children.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

The Custody of Kids When Not Married in Mississippi

In most states, when an unmarried woman gives birth, she automatically and legally has sole custody of her child. ...

Divorced Couples and the Presumed Father Laws of North Carolina

Many children born during a marriage are the biological children of the husband and wife, but this isn’t always true. ...

How to Stop Visitation Rights by the Biological Father in the State of Kentucky

All states require that custody decisions be made according to a child's best interests. Kentucky is one of only a ...

Can a Husband Force the Assumed Father to Take a Paternity Test?

Marriage creates legal paternity for children born during its course. If a woman becomes pregnant by a man other than ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED