What Is a Paternity Case?
When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the biological father is not considered the child’s legal parent unless the father has signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” (usually done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth) declaring himself to be the child’s father, or an “order of filiation” has been entered, which is a court order that declares that person to be the legal father. A petition may be filed in Family Court seeking an order of filiation.
Why Is it Is Necessary to Have an Order of Filiation Made?
If a man was not married to the child’s mother, he has no obligation to pay support for the child. He has no legal right to custody or visitation with the child unless he is legally named the child’s father through an order of filiation or an acknowledgment of paternity.
What Happens at the Hearing?
Initially, the parties appear before a Support Magistrate. If the mother was not married when the child was conceived or born, and the respondent admits that he is the father, the hearing examiner enters an order of filiation. If the respondent denies that he is the father, the Support Magistrate will order blood or DNA tests of both parties and the child and adjourn the case to another date. The parties are given an appointment date for the laboratory tests.
When the parties return to court, the test results are explained by the court. The blood or DNA tests may exclude the man as the biological father or show how probable it is that he is the father. If the respondent admits paternity, an order of filiation is entered. If the parties cannot agree on paternity, the matter is then scheduled for a hearing. Both parties may testify and present witnesses, and the blood or DNA test results may be offered in evidence. If the petitioner presents sufficient proof, the court will enter an order of filiation; if not, the petition will be dismissed.
After paternity has been decided, if the custodial parent seeks an order of child support or is receiving public assistance for the child, the Magistrate will conduct a support hearing.
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