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Legally Establishing Paternity
The expansion of a family can be something to celebrate, whatever circumstances it may happen under. But it’s not always expected and it’s not always under ideal conditions. In those cases, particularly outside of marriage, paternity can become a complex issue and your legal rights need to be defined and defended. In order to help you through that process, the attorneys at Mallie Law are prepared to be your advocate in child paternity matters.
Child paternity generally falls under two categories. The first is, perhaps, more common: the mother of a child petitioning the court to establish the father’s paternity. There are many ways that this process can proceed, but it usually begins with the serving the other party with notice of the intention to establish paternity. Sometimes this process can go incredibly smoothly, and the father can agree to paternity before a judge. Other times, DNA testing must be performed in order to establish a genetic relationship and, therefore, that the other party is indeed the father of the child.
In other cases, the father will begin the process of establishing his own paternity. The mother’s paternity is, of course, usually quite automatic. But establishing the father’s paternity, and the rights associated with that, can take a legal process, especially when the veracity of such claims is questioned. Again, in such cases, a DNA test to establish a genetic relationship can be incredibly helpful and will usually provide the legal basis for paternity claims.
Handling Your Paternity Case
When paternity is disputed, there are specific processes that must be followed in order to establish the legality of that paternity. In some cases, a hearing before a judge is the final step to establishing paternity. In other cases, parties can come to agreements before the need for a hearing.
While issues of custody may be established or disputed concurrently with issues of paternity, it should be noted that establishing paternity does not also establish custody. Child custody is a separate legal issue that governs rights parents have over children and how often parents may see those children.
However, paternity can establish legal obligations. For example, fathers who have their parenthood established by the court will have an obligation to pay child support, assuming that the child does not live with the father the majority of the time. Generally, child support is determined by the combined incomes of both parents. Under current Minnesota law, child support may be taken from the father before custody is established.
The attorneys at Mallie Law have experience filing a wide variety of paternity complaints, including those pertaining to custody rights, blood and DNA testing, parenting time (as well as custody), as well as requests for mediation and adjudication. Whether you’re facing a paternity case in Little Falls or Brainerd, we know the local and county-level laws of the area.
How Can You Challenge Paternity?
During the course of your paternity proceedings, you may have cause to challenge paternity results. This may be a case of challenging the results of a genetic test or challenging the testimony of a witness. There are three basic ways you can challenge the results of a paternity test. In most cases, this will involve proving that the male involved is not the father (again, the paternity of the mother is relatively straightforward).
- Prove You Are Sterile or Infertile: There are many medical tests capable of proving that one is effectively sterile or infertile. Any sterility or infertility finding will challenge a paternity claim because it is by definition impossible to conceive a child. If you suspect you are sterile or infertile, you should consult with a doctor. It is worth noting, however, that diminished fertility is not the same thing as complete infertility.
- Proof of Infidelity: If you can prove the mother was engaged in infidelity, you might have grounds to challenge the paternity of the child. It’s worth noting, however, that this type of challenge is usually wrapped up pretty quickly by a DNA test or other genetic testing.
- Proof of Botched Testing: Not all lab tests are 100% reliable. In fact, there is virtually no lab test that boasts a 100% success rate. When it comes to genetic testing, most results will be given with a probability rating. Therefore, if you can prove that the lab test is somehow faulty, you can challenge the results of that test. However, this is a high bar to achieve. In either case, further testing will likely be ordered.
Every state has its own laws, rules, and regulations, so challenging paternity in Brainerd or Little Falls will not always follow the same procedures as, for example, challenging paternity elsewhere in the country. However, DNA testing is used in the vast majority of cases to resolve any conflicts. Getting the help of a highly qualified lawyer can make navigating these challenges a much more manageable experience.
Why Does Paternity Matter?
Admitting to paternity might seem trivial, but it can have lasting consequences (both good and bad). These rights and responsibilities will vary from state to state, but there are a few things you can count on. In many states, you can establish paternity voluntarily if that is your wish (this is the case when you sign the birth certificate, for example). In other cases, paternity will need to be established.
Once paternity is settled, the implications are relatively straightforward. The party identified as the father will be responsible for the general health and well-being of the child. This may include:
- Providing child support payments
- Providing access to healthcare and paying for that healthcare
- Providing access to education
- Ensuring the child is well nourished
- Other responsibilities
With these responsibilities often come certain rights as well. The party who is established as the father will usually have custody and visitation rights that can be exercised. Additionally, the level of custody and visitation could influence other rights that the father may have.
Establishing the paternity of an individual is key to establishing the role of the father in the eyes of the state. Even in cases where the paternity might be relatively obvious, when there are no challenges to make, it’s often vital to have an established, state-recognized status as a father. Indeed, in many jurisdictions, many parties can bring paternity claims (including the mother or the state).
If you have questions about why paternity matters, contact the Brainerd or Little Falls paternity lawyers at Mallie Law to schedule a conversation. We can help you get the answers you need.
The Difference Between Paternity and Custody
In the case of most unmarried mothers, paternity and custody rights are both granted as matter of law. However, for father’s, custody rights can only be gained through affirmative action through the court. In other words, if a father wants custody rights, he has to seek those rights through the courts. In these cases, it is extremely beneficial to have an advocate that can assert your rights and your position in a court of law. The family law system can be quite complex, and knowing what paperwork to file and when to file it can be a challenge all on its own.
Custody can establish such things as the legal rights of a parent in terms of schooling and medical decisions. It can also establish visitation rights and timetables. Paternity, on the other hand, merely establishes the genetic relationship between a father and child, with all the financial and legal obligations within.
Contact Us If You’re Worried About Paternity
Whether you’re a father trying to establish (or disprove) paternity, or a mother looking to begin the paternity process, contact Mallie Law in order to begin the process in the proper, correct, and legally sound way.