When a child is born to a married couple, the husband is automatically considered to be the legal father of the child. However, when a child born to parents not married to each other, the father is not considered the child’s legal father until he has signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity.
An Acknowledgement of Paternity is a legally-binding declaration completed at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, indicating that the father accepts both legal and financial responsibility for the child. If the father chooses not to acknowledge paternity, he is under no obligation to pay child support, nor does he have any legal right to custody of, or any type of visitation with the child.
Once a child is born, an in those cases where a father has not claimed his rights to the child, should the mother choose to seek child support, she must pursue the matter in Family Court. By doing so, the mother may petition the court to have the biological father either admit or deny that he is the father. Alternately, if the father who has previously not acknowledged paternity wishes to become involved with the child, he may also petition the court to have paternity established.
During court proceedings, should the father admit that he is the biological father of the child, an Order of Filiation is entered. This particular court order is equivalent to the Acknowledgement of Paternity typically done in the hospital. The parties can then move on to establish a child support order and determine custody and visitation of the child. However, should paternity be denied, a Support Magistrate will order genetic testing be done on both parties and the child. These tests cannot absolutely prove that the man is the father, but can either exclude him, or show the percentage of probability that he is in fact the biological father. Once testing is completed and should the father still contest paternity, the matter would be set for trial before a judge.
Given the complexity of the various orders and Family Court appearances, many wonder if legal representation is required. As will all personal issues regarding family law, we encourage the support from an experienced attorney who can advise of your rights and those of your child, as well as support you though the process. The knowledgeable attorneys at Marnell Law Group, P.C. are committed to determining what is best for you and your child. Through our Client Centered- Client Focused Care® approach, we make ourselves available 24 hours a day, 7 –days a week, to provide the support needed to each and every one of our clients.