Paternity Laws

What is Legal Paternity?

"Paternity" is a legal term that basically means "fatherhood." A determination of paternity determines who a child's legal father is, and who is therefore legally responsible for the care and support of the child.

How is Paternity Determined?

Usually (but certainly not always), a child's biological father is also his or her legal father. If the father is not married to the mother, he is still responsible for the child's care. If he is no longer in a relationship with the mother, this obligation is usually met in the form of monthly child support payments. Read more about DNA Paternity Testing

LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor, , Attorney at Law

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DNA Paternity Testing

To collect child support, the mother typically files a paternity lawsuit, which requires the alleged father to submit to a DNA test, which can determine paternity with almost 100% accuracy. A DNA test showing paternity is usually treated as conclusive evidence.

There are some cases, however, when the law simply assumes that a man is the father of a child, and imposes all of the associated responsibilities on the father, unless it is proven conclusively that the legal father is not the biological father, usually via DNA test.

When a married woman gives birth to a child, the law assumes that the husband is the father of the child, and he will be treated as such, in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary. In the event of divorce or separation, this presumed father will be treated as the legal father, and will be obligated to pay child support.


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