The issue of paternity comes up in several ways. A mother of a child may file an action against the alleged biological father to collect child support. She may also file criminal charges against him for non-support. The father may wish to legitimate his child and to obtain visitation privileges, or even obtain custody of the child.
The issue may also come in a divorce action where the parties are not sure of parentage. The determination of paternity is usually aided by blood or DNA testing. The most important thing to remember is that you only get one chance to litigate the issue of paternity. Once the issue is necessary to the pending litigation, it is a final determination of the issue between the parties, whether it is hotly contested, or ignored. For instance, if in a divorce you agree to pay child support for a child born to the parties during marriage, you cannot later contest the paternity of this child.
The best time to seek legal advice is before signing any papers presented by the other side, or the government. You may be signing away important legal rights. If you receive correspondence from the government, or are served with legal papers, seek legal advice immediately.
If you are a new mother, or expecting soon, don’t wait to seek legal advice. Blood tests are not always necessary to obtain temporary relief, and you may get some help even before the child is born, including medical costs.