Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity
Authored By: Louisiana Family Law Task Force
What is Paternity?
Paternity is a biological connection a man has with his child. Paternity has to be proved to legally bind a father of a child born outside of a marriage. Paternity often comes up when a mother tries to get child support to help her raise her child.
Why is paternity important for my child’s future?
- Inheritance. Proving paternity lets a child born outside of marriage inherit from the father. If you didn't marry your child's father first, and paternity has not been proven, your child has no legal rights to the father's property.
- Government Benefits. Proving paternity helps your child collect on the father's Social Security account.
- Child support. You may not need money now, but your situation may change. You may need help from the father to raise your child.
- Medical reasons. Many diseases are passed from parents to children. If a child knows the genetic history of his parents, he may be able to detect early hereditary diseases or avoid a lifestyle that will bring on diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes.
How Do I Prove Paternity?
You can do it two ways:
- The father signs a paper ("declaration of acknowledgment of paternity") in front of a notary and two witnesses. See the link to a form from the site of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
- Or --
- A court can be asked to prove paternity. The mother, a father being asked to pay child support, or the state can ask a court to do this. But sometimes, a child can ask a court to decide paternity. A court can even decide paternity after the father has died.
I signed a declaration of acknowledgment of paternity. Do I still have the right to prove I’m not the father of a child?
Yes. You still have the right to ask for a blood or tissue (also known as DNA) test to prove if you are the father of the child. You may seek custody and/or visitation with the child. You may annul the declaration of acknowledgment of paternity without any reason within 60 days after you sign it. You have to do that in court. After the 60 days, you may still get the acknowledgment annulled in court. You would have to prove that you were tricked or forced to sign it, or that you are not the biological father of the child.
How does the court prove paternity?
The court will hold a hearing and take evidence. This may include proof of a sexual relationship near the time of conception. It may include witnesses who swear that the alleged (accused) father admitted he was the child's father. The court may also order the mother, the alleged father, and the child to submit to DNA testing. If the alleged father refuses, the court may declare the alleged father as the legal father.
Who pays for DNA testing?
The court fixes the cost of DNA testing. The person asking for the test or the person asking the court to decide paternity must pay for it. If the DNA test proves the accused father is the real father, he has to repay the costs. If he is not the father, the mother must repay the costs.
Can you prove paternity when the parent is dead?
You can try. If the alleged father dies before paternity is ordered, a child, or a person on the child's behalf, may ask the court to decide paternity. The child has nineteen (19) years from her birth or within one year of death of the alleged parent, whatever happens first.
How do I fight a paternity suit?
About the same way as someone trying to prove paternity. You can ask the court to order you, the mother, and the child to take a DNA test. You can also ask for a trial or hearing and show other evidence that you are not the father. This may include proof that you are sterile (that is, you can't have children), that the mother had sex with other men at the time of conception, or that conception was physically impossible because you were nowhere near the mother at the time of conception. You may want to get a lawyer to help you.
You are presumed to be the father of a child born or conceived during your marriage to the child's mother. This means that no proof of paternity is needed. But, you can still fight paternity by filing a suit in court to disavow paternity. You must show proof that you are not the father of the child. This proof may include negative blood tests, sterility, physical impossibility because of location at the time of conception, and any other evidence the court allows. You only have one year after you learn (or should have learned) of the birth of the child, to file this kind of lawsuit.