What is Paternity?
Paternity is the legal term for establishing that an individual is, in fact, the father of a child. Paternity can have many legal implications that go along with it. If an individual is declared to be the father of a child that child will be entitled to certain benefits that come along with it. These include access to medical benefits, insurance benefits, inheritance, child support and other obligations that go along with being the child of an individual.
A paternity lawyer can help you to invoke your rights if you believe you are the father of a child and are seeking custody, visitation, or some other kind of parental rights over a child you believe is yours. A paternity lawyer is also useful in disputing allegations that a man is the father of a child entitling the child to support payments and other benefits that go along with being the issue of an individual.
Paternity is a family law issue and, as such, is litigated in a Family Court and follows state law. Every state has its own requirements when it comes to paternity issues. A paternity lawyer should have the knowledge and expertise in that particular jurisdiction to successfully argue for or against paternity.
Paternity can be determined a number of ways. In many states there is a rebuttable presumption of paternity if the child was born during the course of a marriage with the mother. It is the job of the paternity lawyer to dispute these allegations if it is the belief of the husband that the child is not, in fact his. Paternity can also be established by evidence showing that the man contesting paternity has held himself out to the public as the father of the child. This includes signing documents as the father, signing the birth certificate of the child, taking a substantial part in the life or the child, and other factors. It is the public policy of most states to hold a man, who has let a child rely on him as the father, responsible for the continuing upbringing of that child. Family law is concerned with the “best interests of the child” and if denying paternity will have a detrimental affect on a relationship that the child has grown to count on they will uphold paternity in these situations.
The simplest way to prove, or disprove, paternity is with a DNA test. DNA tests, once, like polygraphs, were deemed to be unreliable evidence and would not be held as admissible evidence in a paternity proceeding. Today, however, DNA testing is considered an almost positive test to prove paternity. A paternity lawyer’s hardest job is to dispute DNA findings in paternity cases.
Why do I need a paternity lawyer?
If you are going to family court over a custody issue and you need to either dispute paternity to avoid child support of a child that you believe is not yours; or you are a single mother who is trying to get the father of the child to take responsibility for the support of a child, then it is important to have a paternity lawyer on your side. If you are the single mother of a child then a paternity lawyer can help you; not only get child support payments that, over time, can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but can also help your child establish a relationship with his or her birth father.
If you are disputing paternity of a child you believe is not yours a paternity lawyer will be able to argue for you in your dispute. A paternity lawyer is capable of doing background research, disputing paternity tests and arguing for the client on why he should not be designated as the father simply because he signed a couple of documents or was married to the mother at the time of birth or conception. Child support payments can be costly, especially when you end up supporting a child you know is not yours. Hiring a paternity lawyer may be expensive but it could end up saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
Qualifications & Experience
When looking for a paternity lawyer you want someone with exceptional experience. First, and foremost, you a paternity lawyer who is barred in your state and has extensive experience litigating paternity issues in a Family Court in your jurisdiction. Paternity issues are often litigated in a separate court system known as Family Court. This court has its own procedural and substantive rules as well as filing and form requirements. You want a paternity lawyer who specializes in family law exclusively. A civil lawyer who uses only some of his practice to devote to paternity issues may not be experienced enough to handle the matter.
Fees & Rates
A paternity lawyer will often charge a flat fee as well as an hourly rate depending on the nature of the case. The more experienced the paternity lawyer the more it will cost you. Rates can depend on a number of factors including the complexity of the case, the length of time that the case will take to resolve and the size of the firm the paternity lawyer is associated with. Often times, when a paternity lawyer is involved with a large firm you will not only be paying for the paternity lawyer but also for the clerks, paralegals and the rest of the staff. You should find out in advance whether these charges will be incurred by you.
What questions should I ask a potential paternity lawyer?
When interviewing potential paternity lawyers you should have a number of specific questions ready to ask. You are looking to spend a large amount of money for a service and the paternity lawyer should show to you that he or she has what it takes to represent you in the best way possible. Some questions you should ask include:
■ Where did you go to law school?
■ Are you certified as a specialist in Family Law?
■ How many paternity actions have you handled?
■ Any cases similar to mine?
■ What was the result?
■ What is the major issue in my case?
■ How will I be charged and what will it entail?
■ How many paternity actions do you handle in a year?
■ What is your success rate?
■ How long have you been practicing in this jurisdiction?
■ How often will I hear from you about this case?
■ Will you be handling my case personally?
■ How much of your practice is devoted to family law?