What is a paternity suit, and when should a father file one?

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Paternity/Child Support on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

When parents disagree about who a child’s father is, a paternity suit can clarify the situation. Mothers and children can bring paternity suits. So can men who have been told they are a child’s father.

Often, the goal of a paternity suit is to figure out who must pay child support and who should have child custody or visitation rights in the case of a dispute. In these cases, a judge can order a DNA test to determine who a child’s father is.

In some cases, an unwed father who cannot come to an agreement with a child’s mother may need to file a paternity suit in order to confirm paternity. Otherwise, it can be difficult for unwed fathers to maintain their rights in the case of a paternity dispute.

Fathers can also file paternity suits if they believe they have been the victim of paternity fraud – that is, a false paternity claim or a fraudulent demand for child support money. Paternity fraud is surprisingly common. Many men simply do not know for sure if the child they are supporting is their own.

Although this post only provides a summary of the law with regard to paternity actions, one general rule remains clear: once a man is established as a child’s father in a paternity dispute, the court will typically order him to pay child support.

Be aware that a father who does not pay child support as ordered by a judge could have his wages garnished or could even be sent to jail. For this reason, anyone who is evaluating whether to file a paternity suit should speak to an experienced lawyer.

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