Paternity Issues and Child Support

Paternity Issues and Child Support

Establishing paternity is a vital step regarding collecting child support payments.

Child support and paternity are two words familiar to anybody experiencing a divorce or child support case. However, what a lot of parents don’t understand is that prior to a court ordering child support, you are required to establish paternity. Finding the answer to the supposedly simple question “who is the father?” might be more convoluted than one might think.

Paternity Fundamentals

Establishing paternity is a legal process used by the court system to find out the child’s biological father. Pending the court establishing paternity, the child’s father has no rights or obligations to their child, that means no responsibility for paying child support or the right to appreciate custody or visitations with the child. Each parent can petition the court to establish paternity, or the court is able to open a case on their own.

Acknowledged Paternity

A child born to un-married parents doesn’t systematically have a father legally. For establishing paternity, a biological father is able to either acknowledge paternity through writing—through what is occasionally referred to as an affidavit of parentage—or both parents are able to agree to paternity. An acknowledged father is required to pay child support.

Presumed Father

In a lot of states, when spouses were married when the child was born or conceived, the husband is assumed to be the child’s biological father. On the other hand, some states nullify the assumption if the couple was separated at conception or the birthing of the child.

In a lot of states, the assumption is “contestable,” meaning the man can contest paternity by filing a legal petition with the court.

Depending on your relationship status following the child being born, even men that aren’t married may face the assumption of fatherhood when any of the below are true:

  • the man tried to marry the birth-mother (even when the marriage was not valid) and the child was born or conceived in the course of the attempted marriage
  • the couple got married legally following the child’s birth and the husband agrees to put his name on the birth certificate or to financially support the child, or
  • the child was welcomed into the man’s home, and he openly taken child out to be his own.

Contesting the presumed paternity is a time-dependent matter, so it’s critical for an assumed father to meet with a knowledgeable attorney when he believes the presumption is false. Failing to file a timely legal petition might end up with the court requiring you for paying child support for a child that is not biologically yours.

Alleged Father

An “alleged father” is an un-wed man in which the court deems to be the biological father of a child. In many cases, the other parent is going to declare paternity naming the man in a paternity case to determine custodial rights and child support.

Different from presumed paternity, where it’s the responsibility of the father to refute the allegation, the court is required to provide alleged fathers the chance to take a DNA or other kind of paternity test prior to moving forward with any support or parental case.

The law requires each of the biological parents to financially support their children. When a mother has applied for or received public support, the state might impart a paternity case against the supposed father to get back any financial aid provided for the child.

When the alleged father receives a paternity petition from a court, it’s vital for him to comply without delay. Failing to respond to the request might result in the court issuing a “default judgment” towards you, meaning the judge ascertains that you’re the biological father devoid of a paternity test. Simply put, if you disregard the court documents, you might end up with a child support responsibility for someone else’s child.

Equitable Parent

Even though each state’s statutes are different, many are going to enable a spouse that isn’t a legal parent (biological or adoptive) to gain custody or visitation rights through the state’s equitable parent laws.

Some courts are going to implement the equitable parent notion if a spouse and child have a close relationship, deem themselves parent and child, and the parent has supported their relationship. The court might also require an equitable parent to pay child support through the same assumption.


Stepfathers, meaning a mother’s new spouse, isn’t the biological father of his wife’s children. A stepfather is legally not responsible to support his wife’s children financially unless he adopts them legally.

What About Same-Sex Couples?

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in every state. With this significant decision came a lot of unanswered questions concerning the paternity of children out of same-sex marriages. Even though a lot of states have presumed parent laws, many don’t explicitly define what steps the courts needs to take concerning same-sex marriages.

In a lot of cases, each parent can add their name to their child’s birth certificate, but is that enough to safeguard the non-biological parental rights should the spouses get divorced or the biological parent passes away later? Not always.

The best move for most same-sex couples is to speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to initiate the process of a stepparent adoption.

What Occurs During the Paternity Case?

Paternity cases usually start if either parent (or a district prosecutor) files an official petition with a court to determine paternity. Acknowledged or alleged fathers are not going have custodial or visitational rights with their children unless a judge presents a court order concerning paternity, so it’s not uncommon for the father to file the documentation.

Presently, a basic blood test is usually all a court requires to establish paternity. DNA or other blood tests are usually 99.9% accurate at find out who the child’s biological father is.

When a court determines paternity, the judge is going to decree the father to paying child support for their child and bestow him custody or visitational rights.


  1. Melissa Heinig, A. (2020, January 24). Paternity issues and child support. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from

Speak With Our Child Custody Attorney In Scottsdale

Our child custody and guardianship attorney in Phoenix and Scottsdale will advance your case with concern and personal attention and always have you and your children’s best interest in mind when offering legal solutions.

An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.


Jennifer Moshier Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Scottsdale Arizona
Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer

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