A custody dispute during a divorce is stressful, but what if you were never married? What if you have not yet established legal paternity? When a baby is born, there are so many things that need to happen right away; sometimes establishing legal paternity takes a backseat. However, if you were not married, it’s imperative you take the necessary steps to establish paternity, otherwise, the father has no legal rights to custody, and the mother will not have any right to receive child support payments either.

When a baby is born to an unmarried woman, only the mother is the legally-recognized parent. This is the case even when a mother and father are in a committed relationship or are living together. If the couple divorces within 300 days of the birth, the ex-husband will be presumed to be the father.

The process to Establish Paternity in Louisiana

There are two main ways to establish paternity. The first is through the Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit form. When both parents sign the form, they are agreeing that the man is the child’s biological father. Once the affidavit has been processed, the child’s birth certificate will be amended to include the father’s name. You can pick up these forms at the hospital where the child is born. In the event you are not ready or not able to declare paternity, you can also file it with the Louisiana Vital Records registry at a later point in the time.

If paternity is disputed, you will need to pursue a paternity suit in the courts. These typically arise when the mother wants to get child support payments from the baby’s father or when a father is looking to gain custody or get visitation rights. Some parties can establish important benefits through this method as well. For example, a child that could be eligible for veterans’ benefits or Social Security benefits. If you opt for the paternity suit route, there may be witness testimony and DNA evidence that is utilized.

DNA Tests

The Department of Children and Family Services recommends that you get a DNA test even before signing the acknowledgment of paternity. This will establish conclusively that the man is the biological father. There are two recommended labs Child Enforcement Services contracts with, and the cost is currently $62. Louisiana has the highest requirement for the probability of paternity in the country: it must be at least 99.9 percent conclusive that the individual is the child’s parent.

Challenging Paternity in Louisiana

While not necessarily common, you can use a paternity suit to challenge paternity. Perhaps a father signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity but later discovered his ex-wife was cheating and someone else is the biological father. Another example would be a man who fathered a child with a woman who was married. He wants to establish paternity of the child and prove he is the father, not the woman’s husband.

Retaining a New Orleans Family Law Attorney

In the event you are in a paternity dispute or need to file a court order for support or paternity, you need to seek assistance from an experienced New Orleans family law attorney. Contact the office of Candice Bennatt Law today to schedule a consultation.

Candice Bennatt is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Metairie, Louisiana. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.