Proving Paternity to Establish Entitlement to Child Support
Fathers have a legal duty to provide financial support for their minor children, but enforcing that duty depends on showing that paternity exists. This may require a separate legal proceeding if the presumed father denies the child is his. A man may dispute paternity or be unaware that he might have fathered a child. A contest over paternity will further complicate efforts to secure child support from an unwilling father.
Under Georgia law, there are four ways of establishing paternity to invoke a father’s duty to financially support his children:
- Marriage —A husband is legally presumed to be the father of any child born during the marriage. The marital status confers upon the husband all of the legal duties and rights of a parent. After the child is born, the husband and wife sign the birth certificate, which establishes the child’s legal name. Sometimes, however, paternity may be questioned by one or both spouses. If a husband claims not to be the father, the burden is on him to overcome the presumption by presenting evidence in a legal proceeding.
- Voluntary acknowledgement — Shortly after the birth of a child out of wedlock, both the mother and the father can sign a legal form known as an acknowledgement of paternity. The completed form is then sent to the state Office of Vital Records. Though not conclusive, the father’s signing of the birth certificate can also be evidence of his recognition of paternity.
- Court order — Paternity can also be decided by way of the judicial process. Different courts within the state of Georgia have the jurisdiction to hear and decide paternity matters. The issue is sometimes decided in legal separation or divorce cases. A court order of paternity is binding upon the man adjudged to be the father.
- Mandatory testing — A child’s mother can apply to the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) to compel an alleged father to take a genetic paternity test. This type of paternity establishment may be processed through a local Superior Court or through an Administrative Court, depending on the applicant’s county of residence. If the test is positive, the father must pay for the cost. If not, the mother usually must pay. The test results, once validated by the court, are conclusive evidence of paternity.
Paternity matters can be complicated and expensive to resolve. In some instances, it is difficult to find a putative father or to get him to submit to a paternity test. Even when paternity is confirmed, securing appropriate child support payments can be problematic. An experienced and diligent paternity attorney can provide the necessary advice and counsel.
Located in Newman, Georgia, the Law Office Law Office of S. Mark Mitchell, LLC is experienced in all aspects of child support cases. If you are seeking to prove paternity to obtain child support, feel free to contact me online or give me a call at 470-344-8550 for an initial consultation.