DNA Tests vs. Acknowledgement of Paternity
Childbirth can be a both a joyous event and a difficult occasion in which a mother’s state of mind prior to birth can make a significant difference. Doubts about whether a father will acknowledge paternity can be especially stressful for a mother. In some situations, a paternity test can help resolve that uncertainty.
What if a mother is certain who is the biological father, but he refuses to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity? In that case, a court may order a DNA test to prove who is the biological father. And yes, a court can order a paternity test even before a child is born.
If you are concerned that paternity testing in a prenatal paternity action could affect your child’s health, you need not worry. Courts may not order in utero DNA testing of an unborn child.
While Acknowledgment of Paternity in most cases is irrevocable if not rescinded within 60 days, a paternity test can provide irrefutable evidence of a parentage. In most cases court is cannot compel a paternity test if more than two years have passed after a biological father has signed an acknowledgment of paternity.
To get a court-ordered paternity test, a mother should file a petition to establish paternity. Oklahoma law allows a person to file a petition to establish paternity before birth but does not allow a court to finalize a paternity claim until after a child is born. Okla. Stat. tit. 10 § 7700-611.
Why File a Petition to Establish Paternity?
A mother might file for paternity before childbirth so that necessary aspects of the paternity action can begin before circumstances change. If she anticipates the biological father or alleged father may leave the state, it may be best to act sooner rather than later.
A petition to establish paternity provides a legal basis for a paternity test, and also allows other parts of the legal proceeding to begin, including service of process and discovery. Discovery in a paternity claim can include paternity tests, subpoenas of records that show a person’s relationship with the mother, and even deposition where witnesses can be called to testify. If an alleged father or others with information about the paternity action do not comply with a subpoena, a court may grant a motion to compel discovery.
Where necessary, a court can order more than one alleged father to undergo a DNA test. The court can order tests of various alleged fathers either sequentially or simultaneously. If the alleged father is not available, the court may also order his relatives or anyone who has custody of his genetic material to provide samples.
Alternatives to Contesting Paternity
In a paternity action, paternity testing might not be the only way to reach resolution. Confronted with a legal claim, a biological father may simply file an Acknowledgment of Paternity.
Unless he was a minor when he signed the acknowledgement or can prove fraud was involved, if the acknowledged father does not rescind an acknowledgement of paternity either before the first court hearing or at the latest within 60 days, the acknowledgment of paternity becomes final.
It is not unusual for paternity to be automatically, legally determined through marriage. With marriage prior to birth, a man becomes the presumed father. In most cases, the mother’s husband at the time of birth is the presumptive father unless he signs a denial of paternity within two years. Okla. Stat. tit. 10 § 7700-303.
Personal Jurisdiction in a Paternity Action
There are a few circumstances where a mother might file a petition to establish paternity even with a less than perfect chance of success. Obviously, courts have little patience for fraudulent or frivolous claims. Other cases, however, involve legitimate legal margins.
In contested paternity, Oklahoma statutes prohibit courts from compelling actions by individuals over whom they have no personal jurisdiction. An alleged father who is not married to the child’s mother, who could not have conceived the child in Oklahoma, who never provided prenatal care while living in the state and who never lived in Oklahoma with the child might not be subject to personal jurisdiction of Oklahoma courts.
But that does not mean a mother cannot file a petition to establish paternity if there are reasons to believe the biological father may become subject to personal jurisdiction of Oklahoma courts. Filing a petition to establish paternity in whatever jurisdiction the alleged father resides or where the child was conceived might not be a mother’s only option.
If the alleged father makes a general appearance in an Oklahoma paternity action, or files any document in a contested paternity that does not challenge personal jurisdiction, he may become subject to the jurisdiction of Oklahoma courts.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Paternity Lawyer
Contested paternity can be source of emotional difficulty at a time a newborn child needs the support of well-balanced adult caregivers. An Oklahoma paternity attorney can provide the qualified counsel a parent needs to settle contested paternity and provide a child support they need to thrive.
For a free consultations with a Tulsa paternity lawyer, call Wirth Law Office at (918) 879-1681 or send your inquiry using the form on this page.