What Does Paternity Mean for Custody?
What does paternity mean for your custody case? How is it determined, and what happens once it is established? Find out more.
The results are in — you ARE the father!
We all know those famous lines from shows such as Maury. But paternity is a serious issue when it comes to child custody.
If you’re the child’s biological father, you have a legal and financial obligation to your child. This is the mother’s right.
But there are laws that also establish the father’s right, allowing them to defend their case by proving or disproving their paternity.
Whether you’re trying to gain custody or not, all fathers should understand paternity and their rights to custody. But what does paternity mean? Here’s your guide.
What Does Paternity Mean?
In law, paternity is a term used to prove fatherhood and use this proof in child custody court.
Each state approaches paternity differently. Some require paternity is established before court proceedings. Other states have more relaxed paternity conditions. Paternity is commonly proven with a paternity test.
Why Do Fathers Need to Take a Paternity Test?
The main reason fathers need to take a paternity test is to prove their fatherhood. This helps protect both the father and the mother.
If the father and the mother are in child custody court, a paternity test establishes the man as the father, therefore placing him under obligation for the child.
This can require paying for child support, having joint custody, visitation, and other fatherly duties.
In case there was any infidelity, a paternity test also provides the father with rights. If the child isn’t biologically his, he has no legal obligation to the child.
Keep in mind, the father can opt to adopt the child and assist with fatherly duties if the biological father is unable to fill his role.
Is paternity only used in court? Absolutely not. In the case of an accidental pregnancy with two parties who aren’t married or monogamous, a paternity test helps give the mother peace of mind to establish fatherhood.
In this case, custody is the father’s choice — he can choose to establish joint custody or other parental rights. If he doesn’t desire custody, he’s legally obligated to pay child support.
Is a man legally obligated to take a paternity test outside of court? Outside of court, no, a father isn’t required to take the paternity test.
But if the mother files a civil lawsuit, the father is required to take the paternity test. Refusal will bring serious consequences.
How Does a Paternity Test Work?
A paternity test uses the DNA from the father and child to prove a relation.
There are a couple of ways to test DNA. Swabbing the inside of the cheek is the most common method. This collects loose cells that can be compared. Blood samples are another common method.
Technology makes these tests extremely advanced and accurate — 99.9% accurate, to be exact. We understand the human body has 46 chromosomes. A child receives 23 chromosomes from each parent.
During the test, the DNA is spliced for comparison. If the father and child share 23 chromosomes, the man is the father.
Can You DNA Test a Fetus?
Why would parents want to establish paternity before the baby is born? This gives both parents peace of mind to start parenting or establish parental rights immediately when the baby is born or even before.
In addition, some fathers want to begin bonding with the baby right after the baby is born.
There are ways to still DNA test the fetus. A doctor can extract amniotic fluid and tissue samples. Keep in mind, this comes with many risks.
A safer alternative is testing the mother’s blood. This can identify traces of the father’s DNA. This is less accurate than other methods, but there’s no direct contact with the fetus.
What Happens When a DNA Test Proves Paternity?
Did a DNA test prove you’re the father of a child? The next step depends on your situation, what you want, and what the mother wants.
At the core, a positive DNA test means you’re entitled to custodial and parental rights.
This means you have the right to custody, visitation, and having a say in raising the child. This means you have the right to be there for your child, caring for their livelihood and offering emotional support.
But these duties are your choice. If you don’t choose to have any parental responsibility for the child, you at least need to pay child support.
What if the mother doesn’t allow you parental or custodial rights? You can use the DNA test in your favor. You can file a claim against the mother, proving you’re the father and you have as many rights as she does.
Do Fathers Have Rights?
A popular myth is that the custody court favors the mother. However, the court doesn’t discriminate on gender. They make decisions based on the child’s best interest. Therefore, the father has the same rights as the mother.
If the courts favor the mother during a custody battle, you need to have a powerful lawyer at your side to fight for your rights.
How to Protect Your Parental Rights
The initial court proceedings aren’t the only way a father can protect his parental rights.
First, develop a parenting plan with the mother. This document specifies the duties you both have as parents. It’s important you two agree on custodial and parental rights.
If necessary, type out a contract and include both of your signatures.
In case the mother goes against the agreement, you can take this document to court to prove your rights.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Child Custody Court?
What does paternity mean? Paternity protects your rights as a father and also proves you have obligation for a child.
Whether or not the DNA test proves your paternity, you need to have a powerful lawyer on your side.
If you’re based in San Antonio, take a look at our child custody and support services. We can aid both mothers and fathers during a child custody case.