A paternity lawsuit is a legal proceeding that asks a court to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. Paternity lawsuits are usually filed by a man seeking to prove or disprove his paternity of a child or by a woman attempting to legally establish that a man is the biological father of her child. Sometimes a child's court-appointed guardian or a social services agency will file a paternity lawsuit. The forms to file for a paternity lawsuit vary by state, but there are some similarities.
Before the late 20th century, determining the biological father of a child was reliant on the mother's testimony, a man's admission of paternity or findings by court investigations. In the late 20th century, scientific tests were devised in which cell samples taken from a mother and a possible biological father could be matched against cell samples taken from the child. Such DNA testing can determine with 99 percent accuracy if a man is a child's biological father. Courts frequently order DNA tests as part of a paternity lawsuit.
State Court Forms
Paternity lawsuits are based on complex state family laws that vary from one state to the next. Each state has assigned paternity lawsuits to specific courts. The forms necessary to file a paternity lawsuit are usually located among the child custody legal forms stored on many state court websites.
Paternity Suit Forms
Forms needed to file a paternity lawsuit differ depending on the state that issued them. The primary legal form necessary to start a contested paternity lawsuit is typically called a "Complaint for Determination of Paternity" or a "Petition for Paternity." Some states offer a petition form that can be used by either a child's mother or a child's biological father. Other states may require a potential biological father to file a petition form that is somewhat different from that required of a child's mother. In situations where the biological father has already admitted his paternity and he and the child's mother want to legally establish his parentage, a child's parents can file the proper form, typically called an "Uncontested Complaint to Establish Paternity."
Read More: Laws on False Paternity
Information on Forms
Some states' paternity petitions may consist of two pages of mostly check boxes, identifying who is filing the lawsuit and that person's goals, such as obtaining child support. Other states' paternity petitions are much longer documents and may include questions about any DNA tests done, the existence of a biological father's affidavit or declaration admitting paternity, and a discussion of why a particular man is believed to be a child's father. The person filing the paternity lawsuit petition may be required to attach copies of relevant documents, such as a child's birth certificate, to the paternity petition.
In addition to a paternity petition, the person filing the lawsuit may be asked to file other documents, including a motion for interim custody, a proposed custody and visitation plan, and a motion to require the possible biological father to undergo DNA testing if he has not already been tested.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: The Rights of Unmarried Fathers
- Superior Court -- State of Maine: Complaint for Determination of Paternity, Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Child Support
- FindLaw.com: Child Custody Forms by State
- Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona: Paternity -- For Petitioner Only
- Alaska Court System Self-Help Center: Family Law -- Paternity
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- The Trial Court: Probate and Family Court -- Complaint to Establish Paternity
- Colonial American History; Kirsten Fischer, Eric Hinderaker
- Murdoch University: Protecting the Father-Child Bond Against Nonpaternity Action
- The Genetic Testing Laboratories, Inc.: DNA Paternity Testing
- MyFamilyLaw.com: Paternity -- Legally Establishing a Connection Between Father and Child
- FindLaw.com: Paternity Suit FAQs