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Paternity Filed by Father

To acquire parental rights beyond a Voluntary Agreement of Paternity, including time sharing and decision making rights, the father of an illegitimate child may file a petition for paternity. In a Petition for Paternity, the father may ask the court to establish paternity, time sharing schedule, and child support of a minor child(ren). The petition should be filed with the circuit court clerk and the mother must be notified of the petition. Once a paternity action has been filed and the mother has been served with a copy of it, the mother has 20 days to respond to the petition by filing an answer. If the answer is not filed within the appropriate time period, the matter will be in default and the court may grant the father the relief that he requested. Thus, it is imperative for any parent who is served with a paternity action to respond in a timely manner to the petition, especially if paternity is contested. If the mother files an answer and agrees with everything in the father’s petition for paternity, the father may set a time for a final hearing with the clerk of court.

If the mother files an answer that disagrees with anything in the father’s petition for paternity, including his status as the biological father, the father should then file a Notice for Trial and commence the declaratory judgment action to adjudicate his paternity and establish time sharing and decision making power rights. During a declaratory judgment suit, the court will order the alleged biological father to submit to a paternity blood test and submit evidence about the father’s good faith motives and why granting him legal rights over the child would be in the child’s best interests. For example, if the father has never met the child and waited until the child is thirteen to bring this action, it may not be in the child’s best interests to give the father legal rights over the child.

Evidence

In the event paternity is contested, the party seeking the paternity order may support his or her allegations with the following types of evidence: 1) testimony of the mother and/or the father; 2) the testimony of an expert regarding the time of conception; and, 3) the results of a legally admissible genetic or DNA tests.

The blood tests will typically be conducted in a lab and evidence will be gathered from cheek swab DNA samples of the mother, child, and alleged father. The DNA will be compared to show whether that the alleged father is the child’s biological father. Results that show a statistical probability of 95% or higher create a rebuttable presumption of paternity for the alleged father.  “If a party fails to rebut the presumption of paternity which arose from the statistical probability of paternity of 95 percent or more, the court may enter a summary judgment of paternity.” Additionally, the father may demonstrate his paternity through other evidence outside of the blood test. For example, if the mother has routinely recognized and stated under oath that the child is the natural child of the alleged father or has accepted financial support for the child from the alleged father over a period of years, this may be helpful evidence in establishing paternity. 

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