A paternity petition is filed in order to determine whether a man is the legal father of a child born to parents who were not married to each other when the child was born.
A petition to establish paternity may be filed by:
- The mother or expectant mother of the child
- An individual claiming to be the child's father
- The child
- The child's guardian or next of kin
- A social services agency
The petition can be filed either where the mother or child lives or where the alleged father does.
After the petition is filed, it must be served along with a summons upon the respondent. A support magistrate rather than a judge generally hears paternity cases. Typically, at an initial court appearance, the support magistrate advises the respondent of certain rights, including the right to counsel and the right to schedule a blood test in the event that the respondent denies paternity.
If the respondent admits paternity or has previously acknowledged paternity in writing, the support magistrate will issue an order of filiation. This order establishes both the child's right to support and inheritance and the father's right to seek custody and visitation of the child.
If paternity is not established, another appearance is scheduled at which the support magistrate will explain any test results.
- If the results rule out the respondent as the father, the case is dismissed.
- If the test indicates a 95% probability that the respondent is the father, the respondent is presumed to be the father provided there is no other evidence disproving paternity.
If the respondent continues to deny paternity or the child's mother was married to someone else at the time of conception or birth, the case will be sent to a judge or support magistrate who must determine the paternity issue at a hearing where the test results and other evidence are presented.
Once paternity is established and an order of filiation issued, a support hearing will be held by the support magistrate if the mother wants support from the father or is receiving public assistance for the child.
A party may appear by telephone, if they live far from the courthouse, upon written application and approval from the Court.Family Court Home Page