An action to establish paternity is a civil proceeding. Most states require that paternity be established by a "preponderance of the evidence," which means that it must be more likely than not that the man is the father of the child. Establishing paternity is the critical first step in collecting child support. When legal paternity is established, a child has the right to the father's Social Security or veteran's benefits, medical coverage, pensions and inheritance. Also, the medical genetic information of both parents is available for the child if needed for diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.
How Can Paternity be established?
DNA testing is generally done only when one party contests the paternity allegations. For instance, the putative (or "alleged") father in a paternity action that is the basis for child support collection may require proof that he is the child's father before he consents to payment of support. In other cases, the mother may contest the putative father's paternity, such as when a man attempts to gain custody of or visitation with a child he believes to be his. In many other cases, there is no argument between the parents, and paternity can be established voluntarily. Paternity may also be established by circumstantial evidence, such as when a man takes the child into his home and holds the child out to the public as his own. A married man is presumed to be the father of a baby born to his wife during or shortly after their marriage
Once paternity is established, the father may be ordered to pay child support for his child. Establishment of paternity also provides the father with the legal basis to seek custody and parenting time rights.
Paternity issues, like most family law issues, can have far-reaching implications, both financially and emotionally. When faced with these issues, it is important to seek the counsel of an objective, experienced lawyer.