Paternity is the acknowledgement, both legally and socially, of a parental relationship between a father and his child. Establishing paternity impacts a broad range of family law issues including child custody, child support and a father’s rights.
It has become increasingly important to establish paternity in instances where the parents are not married because once the court finds that a person is the father of a child born out of wedlock, the father has the same parental rights and obligations to the child as if the child had been born to married parents.
Here is how West Virginia categorizes a father:
- Acknowledged Father – An acknowledged father is an unmarried man who has admitted to being the child’s father. An acknowledged father must pay child support.
- Presumed Father – A presumed father is a married man who was married to the mother when the child was conceived or born; legally agreed to be the father of his wife’s child; or has acted and behaved as if the child was his own. A presumed father also must pay child support.
- Unwed Father – An unwed father is an unmarried man who has a child with a woman. The unwed father must pay child support if a court finds that he is the biological or acknowledged father. An unwed father who pays child support may also have visitation rights with the child and can seek custody of the child.
- Stepfather – A stepfather is a man who marries a woman who had a child with another man. Stepfathers have no duty to support the child. However, a stepfather can adopt the stepchild with the stepchild’s biological or acknowledged father’s consent. If a stepfather legally adopts his stepchild, then he must pay to support the child.
To get child support a mother must prove that the man is the legal father of the child. To do this, she must go to court and ask the judge to subject the man to a paternity test. This could mean having the alleged father undergo Paternity DNA Testing. Asking the judge to do this is called a Paternity Action. If the man is a presumed or acknowledged father, then he must pay child support. If the man is neither, then the judge can order the man to have a blood or DNA test. These tests will determine whether or not the man is biologically related to the child. If the test shows that the man is biologically related to the child, then he will have to pay child support.
Once a father’s paternity rights are established, it is unlawful for the mother to deny visitation rights or to move away without regard for the father.
Protect your child’s legal rights. Establishing paternity provides a number of legal rights to the child or children, including health insurance coverage, the right to Social Security benefits, inheritance issues and the right to sue for a father’s wrongful death.
If any of these apply to you, schedule a consultation with Pepper and Nason, call (304) 346-0361 today.