What Is Paternity?

Paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child. When parents are married, in most cases, paternity is established without legal action. If parents are unmarried, paternity must be established by other means. Both parents should start the process as soon as possible for the benefit of the child.

Until paternity is established, the father does not have the legal rights or responsibilities of a parent. Establishing paternity is necessary before custody, visitation and child support may be ordered by the court. (Note: custody and visitation issues are handled separately from child support). A permanent child support order cannot be established for a child until either the alleged father admits paternity or it is proven that he is the father. If the man does not admit that he is the father, the court may order the mother, child and alleged father to provide a blood sample for genetic testing.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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