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Who's Your Daddy? Paternity Tests and Other Ways to Establish Paternity

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

In a possible effort to get as many Father's Day cards as possible, Elon Musk fathered three children with two different mothers within two months.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and singer Grimes welcomed their second child in December 2021. Recently Musk admitted to becoming a father to twins in November 2021 with a top executive at his Neuralink startup.

Fortunately, there is no question about Elon's paternity, as he and the twins' mother filed an order to change their names in a Texas court. The petition asks to make the twins' last names "Musk."

However, there are instances where a man contests his paternity and a court must determine who is the father of the child.

Why Is Establishing Paternity Important?

Once the court establishes paternity, the father is legally responsible for the child. Therefore, the child can receive child support and legal rights until they reach 18 or the age of majority in their state.

For that reason, when a biological parent denies paternity, many mothers take the alleged father to court for child support.

In addition to financial support, the child is eligible to receive from their father:

  • Medical history
  • Health insurance and other insurance coverage
  • An inheritance from their father's estate if not mentioned in a will
  • Social Security benefits if the father dies or has a disability
  • Veterans' benefits
  • Wrongful death benefits
  • Father's name on their birth certificate

Another reason to establish parentage is when the mother is unsure of the biological father and the man wants to prove he is the father of the child. This may occur in child custody battles where the father wants to exercise his parental rights.

How to Establish Paternity

A biological father can establish paternity by voluntarily signing the child's birth certificate.

In instances where the individual is not the biological father but wants to support the child, he may sign a voluntary declaration of paternity. This is also called an "acknowledgment of paternity." In this agreement, he agrees to paternity of the child and is then legally responsible for the child, which includes child support. If he later decides he does not want to parent of the child, he may still be liable for child support payments.

Unmarried parents who want to prove they are legal parents may use a voluntary declaration of paternity. Unmarried same-sex couples may also use it where one man is the biological father of the child and the other wants a record as the other father.

Presumption of Paternity

When a man and woman are married at the time of a child's conception or birth, there is a presumption of paternity. So even if the parents divorce, some states presume any child born within 300 days (or 10 months) of the marriage ending is their biological child.

This presumption is challenged if another man claims paternity or the divorced man denies paternity. A court requests a DNA test to determine if the presumption is correct.

Paternity Test

If there is a paternity contest or a man refuses to acknowledge they fathered a child, a judge may order a paternity test. A paternity test takes a DNA sample such as blood or a cheek swab to confirm paternity or rule the man out as the child's father.

The test compares the genetic material of the suspected father and the child. These paternity tests are 99% accurate.

This happened when Apple creator Steve Jobs denied fathering a child with his high school sweetheart. His former girlfriend got a court order for genetic testing that proved his parentage.

What Is Paternity Fraud?

A man signing a birth certificate knowing that he is not the biological father commits paternity fraud.

Additionally, if the mother is not sure who the father is or lies to the man about being the father, she is committing paternity fraud. Although proving paternity fraud is difficult in court.

If the man signs the voluntary declaration based on a lie, the voluntary declaration is void. However, if a man believes he is the father of a child and supports the child for a period of time, a court may require the man to continue child support even if he is not the biological father.

Can I Get a Paternity Test Without the Father's Knowledge?

Surprisingly, yes. Private DNA testing companies will direct you on how to get a DNA sample to test for "peace of mind." However, these genetic testing results are not admissible in court. The child's mother must petition the court to order a paternity test.

Filing a Paternity Action

If the father refuses to take a paternity test, a court can order him to submit to one. If he ignores that order, he is in contempt of court.

If you need help in establishing paternity or facing a false claim of paternity, reach out to a family law attorney today.

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