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Establishing Paternity in Child Custody Cases

Since fathers often pay child support, it may be important to establish paternity. Fathers that may be required to pay child support include:

  • Acknowledged Father - The biological father of children born to unmarried parents.
  • Presumed Father - There are four conditions in which a man can be presumed to be the father of a child:
    • The man was married to the mother of a child when it was conceived or born.
    • The man attempted to marry the mother of a child when it was conceived or born.
    • The man married the mother of the child after it was born and agreed to have his name put on the birth certificate or agreed to support the child.
    • The man welcomed the child into his home after it was born and considered the child as his own.
  • Equitable Father - A father who is not the biological or adoptive father of a child, but who has a close relationship with the child that is encouraged by the biological parents.
  • Unwed Father - A man who does not marry the woman who bears his child.

In most child custody cases paternity is presumed under the law; however, there are many instances in which it needs to be legally established. One way to establish paternity is for the man to sign a form acknowledging that he is the father. This gives the mother the right to collect child support, but it also gives the father some child custody rights. It is important to fully understand the legal ramifications of establishing paternity before having any papers signed. Once established, paternity is difficult to change. If a man refuses to sign a voluntary paternity acknowledgment, a paternity test can be administered.

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