Paternity Law

Guide to Paternity Rights

Paternity law, or “fatherhood law,” is the legal area dealing with establishing or disputing fatherhood (also known as "paternity"). Common reasons for paternity disputes usually include determining a potential father's rights and obligations with regard to a child or establishing rights related to inheritance after a death.

Traditionally, a child born to the wife during a marriage under common law is legally presumed to be the husband's child. This presumption can sometimes be rebutted through the use of scientific evidence conclusively proving whether the husband is the father or not. In the case of unwed fathers, on the other hand, a man can voluntarily acknowledge paternity of a child, or the mother or a government agency can file a petition for a determination of paternity against the presumed father. Additionally, in some cases paternity can be determined by the courts by virtue of the doctrine of estoppel.

Where paternity of a child is in question, a party can ask the court to determine paternity of one or more possible fathers (called “putative fathers”). The “putative fathers” are typically identified based on sworn statements of the mother or other witnesses. Should the paternity of a father be determined, the court may enter an order presumptively identifying the father and bestowing upon him all the rights and obligations inherent to fatherhood. On the other hand, if a putative father wishes to avoid a determination of paternity, he may file a disavowal action. If successful, a disavowal action relieves the former putative father of legal responsibility for the child, including child support and custody obligations.

The resources below will provide you with additional information about paternity laws. Moreover, should you need to assistance in either establishing or disavowing paternity, you can find an attorney in your area under the “Law Firms” tab, above.


Know Your Rights!

Articles About Paternity Law

  • What Are My Rights as a Father when a Surrogacy Goes Wrong?
    Surrogacy problems may occur for a number of reasons. When a couple is unable to or cannot birth their own baby, they often opt for alternatives to include the possibility of someone else carrying either their baby or the baby of the mother.
  • Modification of Child Support Arrears
    Generally, child support arrears cannot be modified by a court. However, there are exceptions which may offer solutions or negotiations that may result in reductions.
  • Minnesota's Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE) and Preparation
    Preparing for a Social Early Neutral Evaluation may assist parties in presenting and resolving their custody and parenting time issues at a an early stage of legal proceedings.
  • How Can a Person Win Back Legal Custody of Their Children?
    Losing custody of your child is a heart-wrenching experience for any parent. It’s a difficult thing to accept that the court believes your children are better off with someone else- whether that person is your ex spouse, your parents or the foster care system.
  • Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Georgia
    Numerous factors can constitute child deprivation resulting from parental misconduct and mistreatment. For example, a parent’s conviction for molesting other children could render him or her incapable of caring for a child. Likewise, if the child has been exposed to improper sexual activities or domestic violence, such conduct could suffice to demonstrate misconduct and mistreatment.
  • Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Lesbian Mother
    he United States Supreme Court recently sided with a lesbian mother in an adoption case, temporarily blocking an Alabama court order, which declared the adoption of her three children invalid. This case brings attention to the legal challenges that gay and lesbian couples must still face even after the Supreme Court passed a law stating that same-sex couples have the right to legally marry.
  • Can I Be Reimbursed for Child Support Payments I Made for a Child Who Is Not Mine?
    If a father believed that a child was his and this is later disproved by genetic testing, the father may consider seeking reimbursements for child support payments that he made. Whether this is a possibility depends on state law, as does any continuing obligation to pay support.
  • Establishing Paternity in Illinois
    Paternity is the legal term for the relationship between a father and his child. While maternity is always apparent, sometimes there may be questions as to who is the father of the child. When these questions arise, intervention of an experienced family law attorney is warranted.
  • Discouraging Adoption Fraud and Misrepresentation / Duty to Report Abuse and Guarding of Confidentiality
    Especially in the case of adoption, the Code specifically requires an attorney to actively discourage adoption fraud or misrepresentation and prohibits the attorney from engaging in such conduct.
  • Setting and Communicating Attorney Fees
    Both Codes require that an attorney enter into a written fee agreement with a client and requires the attorney to carefully explain and ensure that the client understands the fee agreement. The fees collected by an attorney with respect to an adoption or surrogacy cannot be illegal or unconscionable and must be commensurate with the services provided.
  • Articles on Related to Family Law

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Paternity Law - US

  • ABA - Center on Children and the Law

    The ABA Center on Children and the Law, a program of the Young Lawyers Division, aims to improve children's lives through advances in law, justice, knowledge, practice and public policy. Our areas of expertise include child abuse and neglect, child welfare and protective services system enhancement, foster care, family preservation, termination of parental rights, parental substance abuse, adolescent health, and domestic violence.

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities.

  • DNA Diagnostic Center - Chain of Custody Paternity Test

    As an AABB-accredited laboratory, we perform paternity tests and other DNA tests using a Chain of Custody documentation process to ensure results will be legally defensible, in case the results will be used in courts and other government agencies. This process proves and satisfies the following legal requirements: * Samples are collected by an impartial third party, such as a clinic or laboratory. * The individuals tested are positively identified (i.e. They present a government-issued ID, and they are photographed and fingerprinted for records.). * The samples are carefully tracked and matched to each test participant throughout the entire DNA testing process.

  • DNA Testing - Establishment of Paternity - Wikipedia

    DNA paternity testing is the use of DNA profiling (known as genetic fingerprinting) to determine whether two individuals are biologically parent and child. A paternity test establishes genetic proof whether a man is the biological father of an individual, and a maternity test establishes whether a woman is the biological mother of an individual.

  • National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC)

    The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) is a service of the Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) Office of Family Assistance (OFA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NRFC captures information about policies, priorities, trends, research findings, promising practices, and emerging lessons from the field and helps key audiences translate that knowledge into policies and practices that make a difference for fathers, children, families, and communities.

  • NRFC State Profiles

    The Clearinghouse is committed to providing access to a comprehensive listing of resources and publications related to Responsible Fatherhood. As such, some of the documents in our collection represent historical perspective. Users should make a note of the date of publication for their selected resources. These results may include documents distributed by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) that are produced by the NRFC or other organizations.

  • Paternity Law - Wikipedia

    In law, paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a man and a child usually based on several factors. At common law, a child born to the wife during a marriage is the husband's child under the "presumption of legitimacy", and the husband is assigned complete rights, duties and obligations as to the child. The presumption, however, can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary, at least prior to a formal court ruling involving the putative paternity (often this is a decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation). Jurisdictions differ widely on when a judgment establishing paternity or a support obligation based on the presumption can be set aside on the grounds that the husband was not in fact the father.

  • Paternity Leave and FMLA

    The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

  • US Department of Health and Human Services - Paternity Establishment

    Under early common law, a child born out of wedlock was considered filius nullius -- the child of no one. If paternity was established at all, the parents suffered the indignities of criminal “bastardy” proceedings, and the child had few legal rights. Perhaps prodded by a soaring increase in out-of-wedlock births, society has begun to recognize the social and fiscal costs of ignoring these children. Starting in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a series of cases that precluded discrimination against this population of children, by States or the Federal Government, without a compelling State interest.

Organizations Related to Paternity Law

  • American Coalition for Fathers and Children

    We, the members of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, hereby dedicate ourselves and our efforts to the creation of a family law system, legislative system, and public awareness which promotes equal rights for ALL parties affected by divorce, and the breakup of a family or establishment of paternity. It is our belief through our involvement and dedication, we can have a positive effect on the emotional and psychological well-being of children.

  • Divorce Source - Paternity Issues

    Paternity testing is a major US industry. Between 1970 and 1996, the number of divorced persons has more than quadrupled, from 4.3 million to 18.3 million according to a 1998 report by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau. Hundreds of thousands of paternity tests are performed each year.

  • National Fatherhood Initiative

    We're a non-profit organization that is getting to the root of the issues facing your community by educating and engaging dads. Today, one out of every three children goes to bed each night without their biological father in the home. Ensuring that more children grow up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers is the best way to ensure that every child has a happy and secure childhood.

  • Paternity Matters

    Paternity Matters was formed by the Office of Recovery Services in 2005 to provide education about the paternity establishment process in Utah. Paternity Matters focuses on three main objectives: * Provide training, supplies and support to individuals who work with unwed parents on the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity process in hospitals. * Educate unwed parents about paternity establishment, methods of establishment, and benefits to the parents and children.

Publications Related to Paternity Law

  • Child Custody Publications

    This site offers quick and easy access to expert-quality publications that offer help and guidance for every child custody topic. Every title is STATE-SENSITIVE. Through our easy and confidential ordering system, we can deliver these publications to your computer in just a few minutes where they will be available 24 hours a day for as long as you choose.

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