There are many occasions where the paternity of the child must be established by the Court. This might arise because one or the other parties is denying paternity. More often, paternity is not contested, but must be established in order to establish parental rights for the father. In addition, child support cannot be ordered until paternity has been established.
In contested paternity, one of the parties will file a Petitioner to Establish Paternity. This is often filed by Child Support Enforcement in order to initiate a child support case. This occurs most often when the mother and child are receiving public assistance. In order to establish paternity, a DNA test will be conducted on the father and child. If the DNA test establishes paternity, then the father is adjudicated the natural father of the child by the Court. From that point forward the father will have all the duties and responsibilities of the father. In addition, the father will then have parental rights which means the right to time-sharing and/or legal custody of the child.
More often, the issue of paternity is not contested. However, the Petition to Establish Paternity must still be filed. Typically, the Petition will be filed as a Petition to Establish Paternity, Custody and Support so that all of the paternal rights and duties are addressed during the same process. Many times the entire process is uncontested and can be achieved without ever appearing in Court. However, as with any custody action, the process can become contested. Contested custody brings with it all the implications set forth in the section on Contested Custody on these pages.
Once paternity is established, whether custody is contested or not, child support will be ordered. This is typically a simple calculation. The State of New Mexico has set forth child support guidelines that are followed strictly in all but a few situations. To get a idea of the child support in your case, follow the instructions in completing the online Child Support Worksheet available through www.nmcourts.com.