The number of children born to unmarried parents has increased 377 percent since 2000, according to Families Online Magazine. If you are not married and the father of your child refuses to acknowledge paternity, federal law mandates every state has the right to order him to take a DNA test. His parentage must be determined before the court can enter a child support order. This is usually a three-step process and can take up to six months, but some states will order child support retroactively back to your baby’s birth.
If the father of your baby denies he is the father, your first step is to ask the court for a paternity test, according to the Legal Assistance Resource Center. You will attend an initial hearing where you will make your request to either a judge or a court hearing officer. In most cases, the court will contact the father to find out if he is willing to agree he is the parent. If he will not, the judge will order a DNA test.
According to Nolo, a website offering legal information, DNA tests are 99.99 percent accurate when they are affirmative for paternity and 100 percent accurate when they are negative. The Legal Assistance Resource Center indicates a test is a simple matter of swabbing the inside of your mouth, the father’s mouth and your child’s mouth. It takes only minutes. The technician will send the swabs to a laboratory for analysis.
Generally, the company performing the DNA test will send the results to you, to your baby’s father and to the court. If he is the father, the court will accept this as evidence of his parentage, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources. He will be legally declared the father of your baby during a second hearing. The court will order child support and any other legal obligations at the same time.
The Legal Assistance Resource Center indicates every state must have a child support enforcement system in place according to federal law. If you cannot afford an attorney to file the paperwork necessary for an initial hearing to ask a judge to order a DNA test and if you don’t want to attempt the process on your own, you can ask your child support enforcement center to help you. In fact, their help is automatic if you are receiving any sort of state financial assistance. Even if you are not, they will file the necessary paperwork for you at your request. This may slow the process down, however, because you are not the only mother they are helping. Retaining an attorney rather than going through state assistance channels usually accelerates the process a little.
Nolo warns once paternity is established, not only do you have the right to receive child support from your baby’s father, but he also has the right to visitation and he can possibly contest custody. While your state’s child support enforcement system can help you get a child support order in place, they generally cannot help you with regard to custody issues, according to the Legal Assistance Resource Center.