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.


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Articles About Paternity Law

  • Texas Child Support Modification and Enforcement: Answers to FAQs
    In Texas, there are strict limits on when parents can petition for a modification of child support. There are also strict penalties for violating child support orders. Learn what you need to know if you cannot meet your child support obligations or if your former spouse is refusing to pay.
  • Florida Paternity Law: Knowing Your Rights
    Paternity issues in Florida are handled by Family Law courts; which includes legal versus biological fathers, visitation, custody, and more. With a family law attorney in Florida, you too can handle paternity issues.
  • New Jersey Child Born out of Wedlock and a Father’s Rights
    Children born out of wedlock are, without a doubt, taken care of by their mother unless the mother names their father or the father himself files a petition in the court for the same.
  • Disestablishment of Paternity: Reasons a Petition May Be Denied under Florida Family Law
    Disestablishment of paternity is a process that usually begins when the legal father of a child, who is paying child support, learns new information relating to the paternity of the child.
  • What is a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
    Parents of a child may be unmarried, but they may still sign a Declaration of Paternity. This provides the legal benefits and rights of being the father of the youth in a relationship. Any male that signs this document does so voluntarily, as it is not required for any individual to sign a Declaration of Paternity for any reason.
  • Do Unwed Fathers Have Parental Rights?
    Even though parents may not be married, they often have more rights than they are aware of when seeking some form of action such as child custody. There are many complications when attempting to become the primary care giver for a child, even if the person is a biological parent.
  • 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.
  • 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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