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If you are the mother or father of a child who was born out of wedlock, you may have questions about child support, visitation, and custody, and how your case may be different than a custody case that proceeds through a divorce.
Filing a paternity case is the best way to obtain child support and address visitation and custody for a child born out of wedlock. The first steps for filing a paternity case is to file a petition to establish paternity and have it served on the other biological parent of your child.
A paternity case can be filed by either a mother or father of a minor child. The purpose of filing a paternity case is to request a court ruling on whether or not the man believed to be the father of a minor child is the biological and legal father of a minor child and for the court to adjudicate child support, visitation, and custody.
A common misconception is that if a father's name is on a birth certificate of a child born out of wedlock, that the birth certificate is enough to prove that the father is the legal and biological father of the child. This is not true. Filing a paternity action in court is the best way to enforce important rights.
If you have been served with paperwork in a paternity case, contact an attorney right away to ensure that you preserve your rights. You must file an answer to a complaint in any family law matter within the time allowed by law.
If you have a pending paternity case and there is no question about the identity of the biological father, you may consider agreeing to acknowledge paternity. Acknowledging paternity can save you the costs and time of DNA testing.
Taking a DNA test is not a requirement for proving paternity. However, keep in mind that once you have acknowledged paternity, the decision can be difficult to reverse later if any doubts arise.
Either the biological mother or father in a paternity case may request DNA testing to prove that the person believed to be the father of a minor child is, in fact, the biological father. The DNA testing must be conducted according to accepted protocol. There are private labs that will conduct DNA testing for a fee, but make sure that you go through a facility that is approved by the courts.
A common question about DNA testing is: who pays for the test? The party who requested the test usually pays for the costs up front, although a court may order either parent to pay for the test, or it may be paid for by the state, in some cases. If the test is found to be unnecessary or the person believed to be the biological father is not a DNA match for the minor child, a court may order the person who requested the test or the party who filed the paternity case to reimburse the other party for the costs of DNA testing.
Filing a paternity case is an essential step for establishing your rights regarding child support, visitation, and custody if you have a minor child that was born out of wedlock. Before a court will make a determination regarding custody, visitation, and child support, paternity must be established either through acknowledgment or DNA testing.
After paternity has been established, you may request rulings on child support, visitation, and custody. If you are a father who is establishing paternity, you will likely be required to pay some child support, according to your income. You may also ask a court for reasonable visitation. If it would be in the child's best interests, you may even be able to petition the court to be awarded full custody.
Do you have questions about filing a paternity case? Or perhaps you have been served with a complaint for paternity and you are wondering what to do next? Contact an experienced family law attorney. Laura Avery can answer your questions regarding father's rights and advise you about the next steps to take in your case. Schedule a consultation by calling (501) 725 -1100 or fill out our online form.
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300 S. Spring St. Suite 1015 Little Rock, AR 72201
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