When parties who were never married have a child together, it is considered to be a paternity action. Before the court can award child custody, child visitation, or child support, the paternity of the child must first be legally established. The process of establishing legal paternity is a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship of a child. Either the mother or the father of the child may file the Petition to Establish Parental Relationship of a child. Once paternity is established, the court will make decisions on the issues of child custody, child visitation and child support.
In some situations, the paternity of a father can be challenged, and in these cases legal action may become necessary. If a man is unsure he is the father, or disputes his possible paternity, either he, the mother, or the court, can request/order a DNA test. Under certain circumstances the court will assume, unless timely proven otherwise, the paternity of a child.
Even in cases were paternity of the child is not being challenged, if the parents were unmarried at the time of birth or when the mother became pregnant, a father does not have any legal rights or responsibilities for the child. Therefore, whether establishing paternity or defending against a paternity action, it is necessary to discuss your case with an experienced paternity attorney in order to protect your rights.