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How is paternity legally established?

You may already know why it is important to legally establish paternity of a child in Kentucky. If you are the father of a child, you have parental rights with regard to custody and/or visitation as well as a responsibility to support the child financially in the event of a split between you and the child's mother. Your rights and responsibilities as a parent are the same regardless of whether or not you and the child's mother were ever married. Establishing paternity cements you as the legal father of the child.

According to FindLaw, a paternity lawsuit is one way of legally establishing paternity, but in many cases, it is not necessary. In fact, if you already have a child and you were present at his or her birth, it is possible that you have already legally established paternity. When parents are not married at the time of a child's birth, they will often sign a form while still in the hospital called a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. If your name appears on your child's birth certificate, it means the state has accepted your voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, your rights as a parent are secure and you do not need to take further action to establish your paternity. If you did not voluntarily acknowledge paternity of your child at his or her birth, you may still legally establish paternity by filling out the form if the child's mother agrees. 

However, sometimes the identity of a child's father is in dispute, and legal action in the form of a paternity suit may be necessary if voluntary means are insufficient to establish paternity. If someone files a paternity suit against you and you believe you are not the father, you may contest the suit in court. You may have to submit to a DNA test to support your challenge. The accuracy of DNA testing is approximately 99 percent, but you will usually need to wait a few weeks for your test results to come back. The court will require you to pay child support if this involuntary method of establishing paternity demonstrates that you are the child's biological father.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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