Glenn Stern Law

Establishing Paternity for Your Child

When a child is born out of wedlock or even when a child’s paternity is in question in a marriage, a paternity test can help you know for certain whether you are the child’s father. You can formally acknowledge your paternity by filing that through the Department of Health. This is voluntary, but it provides you with protections and rights you otherwise do not hold without establishing or acknowledging paternity. In fact, a paternity test for this acknowledgment is not required.

Acknowledgment of Paternity

When a hospital, other entity or official accepts an acknowledgment of paternity, they must provide written and oral notice to the birth parents of what providing that acknowledgment means. The oral delivery of this information sometimes involves having the parents watch a video.

When a hospital or birthing center does not provide this explanation of the paternity acknowledgement meaning, that entity can be penalized through fines of $500 per day. When the mother consents to the paternity of a male for that child, that gives the male parent all of the legal rights and duties the father would be afforded under marriage at the child’s birth.

Only when the mother and father sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity can the father’s name be included on the birth record of the child. That is, unless a court or administrative agency has issued an adjudication of paternity.

What happens if the mother disputes the claim of paternity at birth?

If the mother does not consent to the acknowledgment of paternity, the father does not receive parental rights. But they do gain the right to receive notification of any proceedings for termination of parental rights.

If the mother chooses to acknowledge the paternity, that witnessed acknowledgment is a legal finding of paternity. But the mother can rescind the acknowledgment within 60 days or on the date of a court hearing related to the child. The father can also rescind his acknowledgment of paternity in the same ways, in the same timeframe. Beyond the 60 days for rescinding, you must take your paternity challenge to court based on reasons of fraud, material mistake of fact or duress. To prove these factors you must provide clear, convincing evidence.

Acting as a Child’s Father

Paternity by estoppel is a paternal relationship established by acting as the father, without the mother providing any evidence that you are not the father. This means if you act as the child’s father for a period of time, your paternity by estoppel gives you certain rights that cannot be taken away without court consideration.

This paternity by estoppel is based on the child’s best interests, that of being secure in knowing who their parents are and bonding with a particular parental figure. If you act as the child’s father for the child’s lifetime, the court believes the child should be allowed to remain secure in that relationship and not suffer trauma of proving lack of paternity. Once a father acts as a child is his own, that father cannot stop acting in that manner and deny paternity part-way through the child’s life. But this doctrine does not apply when there is evidence the father fails to act as a legal parent, such as through support.

Blood Testing or Genetic Testing to Establish Paternity

When paternity is in question, the court may order a blood or genetic test. This order usually comes from the mother trying to establish paternity for child support purposes, or the father trying to assert paternity for legal rights as a parent. These tests must be conducted by court-appointed experts.

Sometimes a father’s lawyer will dispute admission of blood tests or experts find that the alleged father is not related to the child by blood or DNA. When the presumed father is proven to not be the child’s father through blood or DNA tests, paternity is no longer in question for that male. If the male refuses to submit to the testing, the court resolves paternity based on available evidence or enforces its order for the male to submit to the testing.

A Family Lawyer Helps You in Paternity Cases

For a paternity case, whether you wish to establish paternity for rights or need to prove you are not the child’s father, you need an experienced family lawyer. There are many ins and outs to these laws in Arizona. So do not take this matter lightly, as court decisions affect you and the child on a permanent basis. Finding a family lawyer you can trust protects your rights and pursues matters according to your best interests and those of the child.

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Glenn Stern

About the Author

Glenn Stern is litigation and trial attorney, he is master advocate and member of the NITA Society. He practices throughout California in both state and federal courts.

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