If there is one area of the law that causes a lot of confusion among men, it is with the issue of paternity. The following are three situations when you need to consult an attorney.
A husband who suspects his new baby is not his
Naturally, there is an issue of paternity when the father of a child is unknown, but this can be tricky because the legal father can be different than the biological one. There is no better example than with a married man. When a man's wife gives birth, he is legally presumed to be the father, regardless of who the biological father is. In some states, a husband, who suspects a child born to his wife is not his, can bring a legal action to determine paternity of the child. In states where this is allowed, there is a time limit to bring this type of action. In California, for example, it is two years. After this time, a husband is legally the father, even if at a later time it is found out that he is not biologically the father.
A single man having a baby with a single woman
If you are not married, you still need to consult an attorney about paternity testing. The best time to do this is shortly after the birth of the child. Assuming that you are the father, an attorney can help sort out all of the other issues that relate to being an unmarried father such as child support and visitation. It is best to have all of these issues understood from the beginning to avoid misunderstandings at a later time. Under no circumstances should you sign any paperwork at the hospital. Often there is a document referred to as a declaration of paternity. By signing this, you may be waiving your rights on the issue of paternity.
You are being asked to do a DNA test
A man can be asked by a woman to do a private DNA test, and some states allow this. However, there can be problems with the chain of evidence, and if the test results are not what the woman wants, the issue may not be settled. When paternity tests are done through the court system and you are not the father, a judge will legally exclude you as the father. Another paternity suit cannot be brought against you for that same child.
In general, you always want to consult an attorney with any questions you have about paternity. Most of the attorneys that have experience with paternity issues are those that practice in the area of family law. Talk to people like Gearing, Rackner, Engel & McGrath, LLP for more information.