What Is Paternity? Paternity means fatherhood. Both parents of a child are responsible for the upbringing of their children. While it is generally fairly easy to determine the mother of a child, the identity of the father may require proof. If a man admits paternity then he is automatically taking on the rights and responsibilities of raising a child. If a man shirks this responsibility, the woman may file a paternity suit. If she proves that he is the father, he may be required not only to provide future support, but pay for the cost of pregnancy and childbirth expenses. In the recent past, determining paternity through scientific testing could only tell you a man was not the father. Modern DNA testing can produce nearly conclusive proof of paternity.*
Establishing paternity is the process of determining who is the biological father of a child. At one time, the medical establishment could only determine, in only some cases with certainty, that a particular man was not the father of a child. The mother of the child needed to use other evidence to prove circumstantially that he was the father. Today, through DNA testing, it is possible to determine with almost one hundred percent accuracy if a man is the father. It can also determine with nearly one hundred percent accuracy that a specific man is not the father. Once paternity is established, the father must pay support for the child and, in some states, may have to pay part or all of the pregnancy and childbirth expenses. If the man refuses to pay, the court may garnish his wages, seize his property and bank accounts or even send him to jail.*
Legitimization and Paternity: A child is considered legitimate by the courts if he was born from the union of a married man and woman. If the parents were not married to each other at the time a child was conceived, it may become necessary to establish paternity through one or more of the tests available. Paternity concerns the financial responsibilities of the father and usually takes the form of child support. It is also important to establish paternity in custody cases where the parents vie for the care, custody and control of the child. In some cases, a man might choose to question the paternity of a child to prove that he is not the father in an attempt to deny paternal obligations. A legal judgment of paternity will entitle the child to receive a portion of the father’s estate, titles or inheritance. The child of a deceased father has the rights to survivor’s benefits and Social Security benefits paid by the federal and state governments.*
Blood Tests: The blood test is an old fashioned way of determining if a man could be the father of a child. It used the basic fact of science that everyone had one of several blood types and that a man and a woman’s respective blood types could only produce a child with a certain blood type. A blood test could indicate that a child could be a certain man’s child, but this was not conclusive. There would certainly be thousands of men with the necessary blood type to be the father. The blood test was much more accurate in determining if a man was not the father. Today, modern DNA testing, which may use the blood as its DNA source, is a nearly one hundred percent accurate test. It is increasingly being allowed in court and may soon be universally accepted. However, the test may be incorrectly administered or interpreted which may cast doubt on its results, but that is unlikely.*
* The information contained in this message is general and should not substitute for the advice and counsel of a licensed attorney.