How to Handle a Paternity Dispute

How to Handle a Paternity Dispute
April 23, 2024

Children should be able to build a healthy relationship with both parental figures in order to feel cared for, loved, and confident. When a couple divorces or splits up, a paternity dispute may be inevitable. If you are a father who is trying to establish a legal basis for custody or visitation, or a mother trying to secure support for your child and you are having difficulties, the skilled group of child custody attorneys at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC can help. We know how important it is for both you and your child to spend time together and to have the necessary resources available, and we will work hard to protect your parental rights in Ohio. Here is what you need to know.

Paternity Disputes Between Married Couples

For married couples with children who decide on divorce, the court will presume that the husband is the father of the children. This legal parental relationship will afford him the ability to negotiate a measure of custody, the right to visitation, and will also assist the court in determining a fitting amount of child support

A dispute as to custody and/or support may arise if a spouse asserts that the husband was actually not the biological father of the child(ren).  The presumption that children born during a marriage are the biological children of the husband can be rebutted with evidence that, for example, the wife was already pregnant at the time of the marriage, or that there was an extramarital affair which lead to a pregnancy.  Sometimes, spouses agree to marry when the wife is pregnant or already has small children, and the husband knowingly accepts the responsibility to care for and raise her child as if it were his own. 

In cases like these, the husband who is not a biological parent may be awarded custody or visitation rights, because he served as a parent to the child.  He could also be the only father that the child has known. In any case where a man has a close, parent-like relationship with his partner’s child, and especially when that relationship is encouraged by the biological parent(s), he can be seen as an “equitable” father. Since an equitable parent has proven that he has the child’s best interests at heart and is committed to caring for them, he may be afforded some parental rights, including visitation or  custody. 

Another potential situation that could result in a paternity dispute between married individuals is if the mother gives birth to a child while married, or within 300 days after the termination of a marriage. In either of these cases, the court would presume that the husband or ex-husband is the father. If the mother asserts that he is not, a paternity dispute may arise.

Paternity Disputes Between Unmarried Couples

If a couple is unmarried when their child is born, the state does not recognize anyone as the child’s legal father. For a man’s name to be included on his child’s birth certificate, he first needs to establish his legal paternity. In Ohio, this could happen via the “brown form” affidavit that both the child's mother and father sign to attest to his paternity. This form does not afford the father any automatic custody rights, but it does make it possible for him to pursue whatever unmarried fathers’ rights are available to him. 

Simply having his name listed on the child’s birth certificate is not enough to prove his paternity if he was not married to the child’s mother. If parents did not sign an affidavit at the child’s birth, and the mother is not willing to sign it now, then paternity must be established for any child custody or child support claims to proceed. This is easily done via a DNA test, in which the purported father’s DNA is compared to the child’s DNA to determine whether or not they are directly related. If both parents are willing to sign an affidavit, affirming that he is the child’s father, then a DNA test may not be necessary.

Once paternity is established, a child custody lawyer can help you to retain and protect your rights as a father, and help mothers to secure support on behalf of their child. For instance, if a father who originally signed the affidavit claiming fatherhood now contends that it was done in confusion or under duress, or if he contests the DNA test results, he can work with a child custody attorney to prove his case. 

Paternity Disputes and Children

As with any situation surrounding divorce, child support, and child custody, the children are at the heart of the matter. The child custody attorneys at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC always have your child’s wellbeing at the forefront of our efforts. So it is important to be practical about how the establishment of paternity can affect your child. Not only can it have a major impact on their interactions with an adult that they may love, respect, and admire, but being legally recognized as a man’s son or daughter can also give them certain rights and privileges. Establishing a legal relationship with a parent can allow a child to receive healthcare coverage, to receive some government benefits, and even to inherit from their father. This is why Ohio allows a child, mother, or father to request a paternity test up until the day that a child turns 23 years old. 

Acknowledging and establishing paternity is a way to help and dignify your child now and in the future. The best news is that it is fairly easy to prove paternity, even if you were never married to your child’s mother. Working with an experienced child custody lawyer will ensure that everything is done correctly and that your parental rights are preserved.

Work With a Child Custody Attorney Who Understands

Proving paternity is done for the good of your children, and to preserve your relationship with them. These are vital legal rights that need to be protected, even in the face of accusation or negative assertion. Mothers who require adequate support to care for their children also deserve solid and reliable assistance. With the help of a child support attorney on your side, you can be sure that the guidance you receive will be sound and that you will be able to achieve the best outcome possible. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC our team of child custody attorneys truly care about the relationship between parents and children and are ready to work on your behalf to preserve your parental rights. 

There can be so much at stake in a paternity dispute, rely on a compassionate expert to see you through. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and to discuss your situation. We are ready to help.