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Paternity Laws: Establishing Legal Paternity

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

A week after the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver break-up, it turns out that the couple split after Shriver learned that her husband had fathered a child with a long-time staff member 10 years ago.

Though Arnold has acknowledged that the child is his and has dutifully paid child support, one has got to wonder what would have happened if he had denied paternity.

What are the applicable paternity laws and how would one establish paternity?

Though parents most often seek to establish paternity in cases dealing with child support and custody, it can be equally as important when it comes to inheritance, health-care, decision-making and adoption.

Whatever the reason a parent is seeking a paternity determination, paternity laws require some showing of evidence that the man in question is the biological father of the child.

Some jurisdictions will make presumptions about paternity, such as when a man is married to the child's mother at the time of birth, or if he voluntarily acts as the child's father and is listed on the child's birth certificate.

The best, and most-useful, way to establish paternity when contested is to conduct DNA testing.

If a father refuses to undergo testing, paternity laws may allow a court to order the procedure. However, before that can happen, a paternity suit must be filed in civil court.

Should you need to establish paternity of your child, it's important to keep in mind that paternity laws vary from state to state, so check with a local attorney before you take any action.

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