If you've recently been notified that you are a father, you are likely reeling and confused, particularly if your relationship with the mom was "on-again, off-again." You may have doubts about whether or not you are really the father, but want to do the right thing by the baby. Read on to learn why accepting claims of paternity without requiring proof could turn out to be a very bad move.
Sometimes, the news that you are father comes not from the mom but from the child support agency in your area. When a mother attempts to get any type of government aid, such as food stamps, medicaid or housing assistance, she must name a father for the child. If you don't object to being "appointed" the fatherhood role, you may be responsible for paying child support until that child reaches the age of majority. The punishments for failing to pay are serious: wage garnishments and even jail time.
Even If You Are Not the Father
You may be wondering what could happen if you later challenged the allegations of paternity, and the answer may surprise you. The family court system is set up to protect the interests of the child, not the parents, and the courts are often extremely reluctant to disturb a child support plan that has, so far, been adequately taking care of a child. Sometimes the real biological father may not be known or is in no position to take care of any child support obligations. The court, based on taking the best interest of the child into consideration, may order you to continue paying child support since you have been "acting in that role" for some time. It's also worth noting that you may have not only been supporting this child financially, but may have formed a bond with the child, which the courts hate to disturb (and so should you).
Having viewed the above information about preemptive claims of paternity, you should ensure that a paternity test is carried out at the first opportunity. Notwithstanding protestations from the mother, only a DNA test will give you a definitive result. Remember, if you are not the father and claim paternity, you could be depriving the real biological father of an opportunity to be a father and forming a relationship with their child. You should also keep in mind that there is nothing stopping you from voluntarily contributing to a child's financial support or forming a relationship with that child, as long as you are not legally obligating yourself to it.
For more information, contact a firm such a The Law Offices of John G. McGill, Jr.