Paternity (law)

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Paternity law, or father law, is the legal area dealing with establishing or disputing "paternity", the legal relationship between a father and his child.

A child born to the wife during a marriage under common law[1] is determined to be the husband's child by a "presumption of paternity". This presumption, can sometimes be rebutted by evidence to the contrary, generally prior to a formal court ruling involving divorce, annulment or legal separation.

In the case of unwed fathers, a man may come forward and accept the paternity of the child in what is called a "voluntary acknowledgment of paternity", the mother or government can file a petition for a determination of paternity against a putative father, or paternity can be determined by the courts through estoppel over time.

Common Law[edit]

This page mainly discusses "Common Law" countries. For other country legal systems see: List of national legal systems. While India is also a common law country its family law system is so unique that it has its own legal pages on Wikipedia. Law of India

The context of usage for the terms "common law" and "civil law" from within Common Law countries refers to non-criminal laws, presumptions or statutes affecting marriage or the family in general, not a different type of country legal system.


Unwed Fathers[edit]

Generally, under common law, a father has legal responsibility for his offspring.[2]

Married Fathers[edit]

Where paternity of the child is in question, a party may ask the court to determine paternity of one or more than one or several possible fathers (called putative fathers), typically based initially upon sworn statements and then upon testimony or other evidence.[1]

A successful application to the court results in an order assigning paternity to a specific man, possibly including support responsibility and/or visitation rights, or declaring that one or more men (possibly including the husband of the mother) are not the father of the child. A disavowal action is a legal proceeding where a putative father attempts to prove to the court that he is not the father; if successful, it relieves the former putative father of legal responsibility for the child.[3]

In the United States, a divorcing father files a parenting plan with a district court which outlines how the parents will share responsibilities on matters such as custody, visitation, support and insurance.

Some paternity laws assign full parental responsibility to fathers even in cases of women lying about contraception, using deceit (such as oral sex followed by self artificial insemination [4] or statutory rape by a woman (Hermesmann v. Seyer) [2]

If the context of inheritance rights, it will be the heirs of the deceased person who are attempting to dispute or establish paternity. In some states, DNA testing will be dispositive to establish paternity. In most states, however, there are a variety of rules and time restrictions that can deny inheritance rights to biological children of a deceased father.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Paternity Law - Guide to Paternity Rights". Worldwide Legal Directories (USA). Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  2. ^ a b "Court Tells Youth to Support Child He Fathered at Age 13". New York Times (USA). Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  3. ^ "Louisiana Civil Code article 186 et seq.". Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  4. ^ "=State of Louisiana v. Frisard: Wikis". Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  5. ^ "Paternity for Florida Inheritance Rights". Clark Skatoff PA is a Florida law firm. Retrieved April 10, 2013. 

External links[edit]