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Paternity and the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002

Whether you are approached by the mother or the putative father, you will likely deal with quite a few paternity issues in your family law practice. A paternity determination may be requested by the mother, the putative father, the child, or a court. Also, the state may bring a paternity action when the mother applies for public assistance in order to establish child support payments.
 
Basic Requirements
 
Whether or not your state has adopted the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002 (UPA), the basic process to establish paternity is the same in all jurisdictions.
 
The easiest method is for a putative father to sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity. Such consent is generally for life, although some jurisdictions allow for rescission within a specified time period, which is generally two years. Also, an acknowledgement has full faith and credit for enforcement in states that have adopted the UPA, and it is effective as long as there is no other presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father. If you are representing the putative father, you really should advise against consent by acknowledgement. Once the consent is signed, the putative father has all of the rights and obligations of a legal father, including child support obligations. If the man is later found not to be the child’s biological father, he may not be able to escape his legal obligations to the child.
 
Another method of establishing paternity is DNA, or genetic, testing. This testing consists simply of a cheek swab collected from the putative father, the mother, and the child. Once such testing shows that the putative father meets the percentage of probability, usually 95 percent or greater, he is the presumed father. While not 100 percent accurate, DNA testing leaves little doubt as to paternity. It is highly advisable to request DNA testing in order to establish paternity when in doubt. If a putative father refuses to submit to an order for testing or fails to appear at a court hearing to establish paternity, his paternity can be established by default.
 
Uniform Parentage Act of 2002
 
The UPA covers any and all types of disputes regarding parentage, including divorce, probate, and other proceedings, in addition to parentage. The UPA provides a comprehensive scheme for establishing paternity, standards for genetic testing, and an adjudication process. The UPA also provides a registry for putative and possible fathers, which enables them to be notified if there is a proceeding for termination of parental rights (such as a dependency, neglect, or abuse proceeding) or adoption (by third parties or a stepparent). However, the registry is only effective until the child reaches one year of age.
 
Reasons to Establish Paternity
 
There are several reasons to establish paternity. The most obvious reason is child support, and this is the most common reason that you will encounter. However, a child with a legal father can be entitled to medical and life insurance benefits, rights to social security, disability, and veterans’ benefits, and an inheritance from the legal father and his family. Paternity also provides valuable information on the medical history of the father and his family, including hereditary illnesses and genetic defects. Further, the father can seek visitation or even custody of the child.