Establishing Your Child’s Paternity

In Child Custody, Child Support, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

A determination of paternity is incredibly important under the laws of North Carolina as without such a finding: (1) a father has no legal rights to visit or access the child; (2) a mother has no ability to obtain child support orders; and (3) the child does not have an automatic right to inherit from the father. This is because absent a paternity finding or presumption, a child has no legal father.

Voluntarily Establishing Paternity

Paternity can be established in several ways. The first is the presumption of paternity that occurs when a child is born to married parents. In this scenario, it is mandatory that the child’s father be named on the child’s birth certificate and that the child be given the father’s last name unless otherwise agreed by the parents. Another method is legitimation by marriage, in which the parents get married following the birth of the child, thereby legitimizing the child’s birth and legal paternity.

For unmarried parents, the North Carolina General Statutes dictate that in order for a father’s name to appear on a birth certificate, the mother and father must complete an affidavit in which the mother consents to the father’s claim of paternity and that the father acknowledges that he believes himself to be the child’s natural father and recognizes the rights and duties that come with paternity. If the affidavit is compliant with the law, the father shall be listed on the child’s birth certificate, establishing paternity.

Adjudication of Paternity

The law also provides for the establishment of paternity through the courts. Entitled, “Civil Actions Regarding Children Born Out of Wedlock”, the General Statutes allows for a civil action to be brought to establish paternity. This suit may be brought by either parent or by the state’s Child Support Services (CSS). Paternity must be established in these cases by “clear, cogent, and convincing evidence”, which may include genetic testing of both parents. If an alleged father has a genetic probability of greater than 97%, then he can be legally adjudicated to be the child’s father. With this come the rights to access and custody, as well as the obligation of child support. Of course, there are numerous defenses and methods for an alleged father to defend himself in these proceedings, which is why paternity litigation can become hotly contested.

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law represents clients in family law disputes, including child custody matters. Your children are your world, and we appreciate that. We have built a reputation as strong, intelligent advocates for our clients and want to assist you. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.