To establish paternity, one or the other party must file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the court. Once a Petition to Establish Paternity has been filed, the alleged father has a right, during the course of the proceedings, to have a DNA test conducted on himself and the child to establish paternity.
DNA Test Required To Establish Paternity
Either party may file the petition to establish paternity. Most often, it is the mother that files the petition along with a petition to establish child support.
However, in many cases, the father may need to file the Petition to Establish Paternity in instances where he may have been denied access to the child or in cases where he may believe that he is indeed the biological father.
Filing of Petition to Establish Can Come Years After Relationship
It is not uncommon that an alleged father receives the petition years after the relationship with the mother. In fact, it is not uncommon that the alleged father has no knowledge of the birth of a child.
This situation happens more often than one might think and it can have severe financial consequences. In fact, if proven to be the father, the father may be ordered to pay child support all the way back to the birth along with other costs.
The financial and familial consequences can be very severe and therefore it is highly advisable to hire an experienced family law attorney experienced in paternity and child support issues.
An Alleged Father Can Dispute Paternity
New Mexico courts often order DNA testing in contested paternity cases with the costs allocated dependent upon the outcome.
Paternity tests have become very reliable and inexpensive to conduct. Typically, a court will order a DNA test if paternity is contested. The court will often require the parties to share the costs upfront. However, the courts will often reallocate the costs depending upon the outcome.
As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry, so if you have a doubt that you may be the father, the relative ease and reliability of a DNA test is certainly the prescribed course of action. There is no reason not to seek DNA verification unless a relationship with the child is desired with or without biological paternity.
Presumption of Fatherhood
There are cases where paternity is presumed, and others where the court will not set this aside. These situations are dictated by the best interests of the child.
Under other circumstances, for example, if you are married and your wife has a child, that later turns out not to be your biological child, a court does have the option of making you the presumed father and order you to continue supporting the child even if the child is not yours biologically. This is done for the protection of the rather severe consequences to the child of such a situation.
If you suspect that a child is not yours, and you are married or in a relationship, consult with an attorney, because the consequences of assuming the role of the father can legally obligate you to continue in that role.
Child Support and Time-Sharing Ordered Upon Proof of Paternity
Upon a determination of paternity, the court will order back child support in most cases. This support may go back to the birth of the child.
Whether you are the biological father or the presumed father of a child, once the paternity issue is resolved, the court can order child support and timesharing with the child.
As mentioned, even in instances where the court finding is made years later, the court may order back child support for all those years. The financial consequences of being ordered to pay years of support can be very severe.
Again, this is the case even if the father had no knowledge or reason to know of the child. Despite what may seem unfair, a back order of support is fully enforceable.
Contact a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney
Assuming the parental responsibility of a child you did not know you had or continued being responsible for, a child that is not yours can be both a stressful and financially-taxing experience for everyone involved.
As such, it is critical that you find an attorney experienced in paternity and child support. Attorneys at Collins & Collins are ready to serve you if and when you need them. Have an attorney at Collins & Collins review your case at no cost.