When a child is born to a married couple in North Carolina, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child and possesses the same parenting rights and privileges as the child’s mother. This is not the case when the child’s parents are not married. When a mother is not married, she retains sole custody and rights to her child. Before an unmarried man can be recognized as the legal father of the child, he must take legal action by establishing paternity with the courts.

Establishing Paternity in North Carolina

There are several reasons why it is important to establish legal paternity. Parents are expected to provide support to their children, but paternity must be recognized by the court before the state will order or help you collect child support from the noncustodial parent. A father must also establish paternity before the court will grant him visitation or custody rights. Until then, the child’s mother can deny visitation and even move far away if she wants.

If both parents agree and are willing, they can sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity. This can be done at the hospital shortly after the baby is born, or at a later date. It is the easiest way to earn legal recognition as the child’s father and places the father’s name on the birth certificate.

If either party denies paternity of the alleged father, paternal rights and obligations will not be recognized unless someone files a paternity action. A paternity lawsuit can be brought by the child’s mother and any man that believes he could be the child’s father. Social services may also file a paternity action if the mother or child receives public assistance.

The judge typically decides paternity by ordering a DNA test. All parties will be required to participate. The genetic testing (usually a simple mouth swab test) is non-invasive and highly reliable. The court will recognize paternity if the results confirm the alleged father is the biological father of the child with at least 97% certainty. A final order of paternity will be issued, and the parties can move forward with child custody and support actions if necessary.

Family Law Attorneys in High Point, NC

For further information about paternity and other family law issues, call the experienced family law attorneys at McAllister, Aldridge & Kreinbrink, PLLC. Contact our office in High Point, North Carolina today to schedule a consultation.