Updated: Feb 15, 2019
In 2018, we live in a Maury Povich world, that is, on a daily basis we are reminded that things are not always what they seem. In Maryland, a mother who is married is presumed to have created the baby with her husband. While this type of logic may have worked 100 years ago, anyone who has access to a television, a radio, the internet, or even water cooler talk knows that just because a woman claims a man fathered her child, that may not necessarily be the case. In the case of child custody and support, a mother who is seeking a support order may be faced with having to prove paternity, meanwhile, a man who is alleged to be the father but is not 100% sure of his parentage may want to determine paternity for his own peace of mind and also perhaps to eliminate the need to pay support for a child whom he may not have fathered.
In Maryland, at the time of birth, or shortly thereafter, the alleged father may voluntarily sign a form called an Affidavit of Parentage attesting to being the father of the child in question. This document may be rescinded within 60 days after the last party signed by executing a Rescission Form for Affidavit of Parentage. Once 60 days have elapsed, nullifying the Affidavit of Parentage is mostly a losing battle. Absent a showing of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, striking the “father’s” name from the certificate is nearly impossible. Therefore, a man who is not 100% sure that he fathered the child in question should not sign an Affidavit of Parentage prior to consulting an attorney.
Where an Affidavit of Parentage has not been signed and paternity is in question, the courts may order genetic testing. Testing is completed in the form of a quick swab of the cheeks of the mother, child and alleged father and the results are determined within 4-6 weeks. In Maryland, the DNA laboratory results must show that there is a 97.3% statistical chance that the alleged father is the father. If the father still denies paternity after receiving the results of the testing, the results may be used as evidence in a trial where the courts will pass an order establishing paternity and child support.
Establishing paternity is key to child support and custody issues of course, but, it also allows the child the benefit of definitively knowing who his father is, developing a relationship with his father and father’s family, obtaining medical information and health insurance and it also allows the child to be considered an heir at the time of the father’s death.
Paternity is a complicated legal issue that often requires competent legal assistance. Before signing any documents or if documents have already been signed but paternity is now in question, contact West Law Firm to discuss your options.