Paternity Testing in Court Cases
In most cases, when a married couple has a baby, both parents are automatically assumed to be the legal parents of the child. The baby is given a name, both parents are listed on the birth certificate, establishing paternity and maternity, and that’s the end of it – both parties are equally responsible for and have equal rights to the child.
In certain cases, however, the paternity of a child isn’t always obvious or known, and in other cases, it may be contested by the mother, father, or even the child. Additionally, unmarried couples who have a child will not have their parenthood automatically established, which could cause issues down the road. In these cases, it may be necessary to establish paternity legally, which is why you may need the help of a North Carolina family law attorney.
What is Paternity?
Simply put, establishing paternity is the legal process by which a baby’s biological father is formally recognized as their father under any given state’s laws, also known as legitimation. As mentioned above, there are many situations in which paternity may not be automatically established, and paternity testing may be sought by the mother, father, or child.
How Establishing Paternity Works in North Carolina
North Carolina provides four ways for parents to establish the paternity of their child. As discussed, the first (and easiest) way for paternity to be established is when a child is born to a married couple.
The second way to establish paternity is for a mother and father who are unmarried but already have had a child, to get married after the child is born. In this case, the state will apply paternity retroactively back to the child’s birth. Please note that you may need the help of a family law attorney for this method to be performed correctly.
The third option for establishing paternity is for the mother and father to both sign an “Affidavit of Parentage.” This is an easy process where both parties voluntarily sign the affidavit in front of a witness and establish parenthood. Typically this is done when the baby is born to an unmarried couple, but it can also be done afterward or during a paternity court case if both parties agree. It establishes the biological and legal father, establishes the right for the father to seek custody/visitation, and holds the father liable for child support if necessary.
Finally, paternity can be established through the judicial system. If the parents cannot agree to sign the affidavit, or if the mother, father, child, of child support services requests that paternity be established, the case can go to court. If the case goes to trial, a judge will often order genetic testing. In North Carolina, DNA testing must reveal at least a 97 percent likelihood that the alleged father is also the biological father. If this is the case, the judge will issue a paternity order that will then allow for other issues, like custody, visitation, residency, and child support, to be resolved.
Why Should You Establish Paternity?
There are many reasons why a couple, individuals, or a child may wish to have paternity established. For instance, it can help:
- Resolve any issues or concerns regarding who is obligated to financially support the child, pay medical expenses, educational costs, etc.
- Solidify the father’s right to seek expanded visitation and custody.
- Establish both parents’ names on the child’s birth certificate.
- Ensure the child has access to medical history for both sides of their family.
- Prove a child’s identity.
- Ensure the child can qualify for benefits such as social security, inheritance, and veteran’s benefits.
Help From a Family Law Attorney
Whether you’re a mother seeking child support, a father seeking custody rights, or a child seeking the rights they’re entitled to through patently, the lawyers at Mulligan Attorneys can help. Just get in touch with us to schedule your consultation by clicking here or by calling 910-763-1100.
Additionally, you can find resources online from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.