Learning that you are about to be a father may bring unbelievable joy and happiness, or confusion and fear. No matter how you feel, if your relationship with the mother has been troubled and you have reason to doubt the baby's parentage, you may need to consider asking for proof of paternity. The legal and financial obligations of admitting to paternity can be long-term and serious, so before you sign on the dotted line and admit paternity, read below for information you need to know.
Admission of Paternity
Allowing your partner to name you as the father of the child could be more serious than you think. To be eligible for government aid, such as food stamps and housing, the mother is asked to name the father of the child. This allows the government to seek reimbursement of any funds spent on the baby. Failure to step forward and refute or seek proof of this claim may obligate you to more than 18 years of child support (some states require that child support continue for college-aged students). You may be required to pay child support based on your pay and you could face wage garnishment or jail time for not complying.
Even If You Are Not The Father
Once you begin paying child support without a paternity test, you could be required to continue paying even if a later paternity test reveals someone else as the father. Judges are reluctant to disturb support agreements that have been successful, especially if the real father is unable to pay, unknown or cannot be located.
The courts place a high priority on the "best interest of the child". If you have already formed a relationship with this child based on a false allegation or perception of paternity, you should strongly consider the impact your actions could have on a vulnerable, innocent child who has formed a bond with you.
Once you consider the financial and personal degree of obligation and responsibility, it would be unwise to forgo a DNA test for paternity. The mother may protest and become indignant, but undeniable proof should be sought as soon as possible. Not only are you verifying the information for your own purposes, but the child has a right to know, at some point, who their father really is. Additionally, you could be preventing the actual biological father from valuable knowledge and the rights and responsibilities that come with being a father.
Contact a family law attorney for more information about protecting your fatherhood rights or to contest a child custody allegation.