In the last 20 years, DNA paternity testing has become a household term as a result of court TV proceedings, daytime television drama and a general increased awareness of legal procedures. Establishing paternity can be a lengthy process, but DNA testing has made it a little easier. Many women wonder about their rights when a man requests DNA testing of their children. It can vary by state, but in most cases, it depends on whether he has a court order.
If a man is married to a woman at the time of the birth of her child, or if he signs the birth certificate as the father, paternity is assumed by law. Other than that, there is not legally established paternity. To establish paternity after the fact, you need a DNA test. Although the laws vary by state, most require DNA testing to prove a man fathered a child after a birth certificate has already been issued. The process involves analyzing the blood, skin cells from the inside of the cheek, or hair from the child and the man in question.
Reasons to Establish Paternity
The most common reason women establish paternity for their children is to receive child support payments. However, there are other reasons to establish paternity, including Social Security benefits and certain situations with estate planning. Some women are afraid to establish paternity because they mistakenly believe that it automatically gives custody or visitation rights to the father. This is incorrect. Paternity may be first step in suing for custody or visitation, but it doesn’t automatically grant it.
Without a Court Order
If you haven’t established paternity, you have default sole custody of your child. This gives you the power to make all legal decisions for her. If a man believes he is the father of your child and requests to have her DNA tested, you can agree or refuse. Saying "No" isn’t your only option; you can also use your physical custody of the child to prevent anyone from taking DNA material without your express permission.
With a Court Order
The only reason you could be forced to present your child for DNA testing is by order of a court. The man who wants the testing would petition a court to force you to do so. For example, if a man is trying to establish parental rights to a child, he petitions the court. This could also happen if the man who signed the birth certificate doesn’t believe he’s the father. In some cases, if there is a child support issue before a judge, he may order a DNA test without the man necessarily filing a petition.