Unfortunately, most fathers don’t realize that if they were not married to the mother of their child or children, they have no legal rights as a parent. Paternity for the unmarried father can only be proven through DNA testing or demonstrated through the existence of a Paternity Affidavit. A father cannot be awarded custody or enforce parenting time until paternity is established.
Paternity can now be established relatively quickly with low cost DNA paternity testing. The father can either submit to a paternity test, or a court order can be obtained to compel the parties to take the test. Modern DNA test results are extremely accurate and nearly indisputable proof of parentage (99.9%). It is also common that paternity can be affirmed by the existence of a Paternity Affidavit often presented to the father at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.
A married man is the legally presumed father when a child is conceived during the marriage even if he may not be the biological father of the child. This presumption may be rebutted by DNA testing but requires court or administrative action to do so. A father served with Child support enforcement papers needs to address this issue immediately.