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Paternity and Custody Law

Determining Paternity And Its Effects On Custody Rights In New Orleans

Paternity is not automatic unless the father is married to the mother. When a couple has a child out of wedlock, the alleged father has a choice: He can file an Acknowledgement of Paternity right away, file it later, or not file it at all. It depends on whether he believes he is the father of the child. However, filing an Acknowledgement of Paternity – or not – has consequences for the mother and father.  

Louisiana has not changed the laws regarding same-sex parents even though it has deemed same-sex marriages legal. While a lawyer can argue in favor of “paternity” or “maternity” with same-sex couples, the courts may or may not accept that argument. The issue becomes simpler for same-sex couples who are not married, as the rules would still consider the child an illegitimate child. 

What is Paternity?

A paternity action establishes the father of a child. Paternity is both legal and biological. A man can be the biological father of a child, but unless he is married to the mother, he is not the legal father of the child. Likewise, a man can be the legal father of a child but not the biological father.

Louisiana has several terms for a man that might or might not be the father of a child:

  • Putative father: The mother of the child tells doctors and everyone else that a certain man is the biological father. A putative father does not have legal rights to visitation and / or custody of the child should the couple separate.
  • Alleged father: A woman has a child, and the man states he is the biological father. However, the parents are not married, so the dad doesn’t have legal paternity. An alleged father has no legal right to visitation and / or custody.
  • Acknowledged father: If a man wishes to have rights to the child if a couple separates, he must sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity stating that he is the biological father. In some circumstances, a man might consider himself the legal father of the child, even if he is not the biological father. In the event of a separation of the unmarried couple or the divorce of a married couple, the father has rights to custody and visitation and would also pay child support. 
  • Presumed father: A married couple has a child. Because the law assumes that the husband and wife do not cheat, it also assumes that the husband is the biological father of the child. If the man finds out that he is not the biological child, he can file a form to deny the child. However, the man has a certain amount of time after the birth of the child to file the form. 

If a man is not married to a woman who has a baby he believes is his, he should complete the Acknowledgment of Paternity, so he has legal rights over the child. However, before the father signs the form, he should consider all of the ramifications of becoming a child’s legal father, including paying child support. We recommend doing a paternity test before signing any document stating a man is the father of a baby unless he is 100 percent sure he is the father.

Establishing Paternity in New Orleans

A man married to a woman having a baby doesn’t have to take any action to establish paternity as the law considers him the biological and legal father of the child. However, a married man who believes the baby is not his should insist on a paternity test to disprove paternity. There are many ramifications of this action. It could end the marriage. The baby might not grow up with a good father figure, even if the marriage remains intact. The alleged father might consider seeking advice from a family counselor and a paternity lawyer.

When a baby is born out of wedlock, and the father believes it is his, he should ask for a paternity test before signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity unless he is 100 percent sure that he is the biological father. Signing this form not only allows the father to have visitation and custody rights but also means the father must pay child support.

How Does Determining Paternity Affect Custody Rights?

Child Custody Paternity

If a baby is born out of wedlock, even if the father believes it is his child, he does not have custody or visitation rights. The mother has all of the rights. In situations where the mother should not have custody of the child – maybe the mother is convicted of a crime, abuses alcohol or drugs, or is mentally unstable – the father, even if he is the biological father, cannot take custody if he does not have legal custody.

Determining paternity at the birth of the baby saves both parties a lot of heartache later, should they decide to separate or divorce, or the father has to take custody of the child for any reason.

Resources Available for Establishing Legal Parenthood

If a father wishes to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity at the birth of his child and he is not married to the mother, he should have this form ready to sign immediately after the birth of the baby.

If a man married a woman who was already pregnant, whether he believes the child is biologically his or not and wants legal rights over the child, he should have this form ready for his signature immediately after the birth of the baby.

Finally, if a father signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity and then finds out the child is not his biological child, he has a short time to revoke the Acknowledgment. The rules around revoking an Acknowledgement of Paternity can be complex depending on the situation, so the alleged father should seek the services of a paternity attorney.

The Birth of a Baby

Some fathers want their loved one’s baby in their lives, even if the baby isn’t their biological father. The birth is a happy time for both parents, whether they are married or plan on getting married. Ensuring the father has legal rights over the child allows him to have custody and visitation rights should something happen to the mother or if the mother is not able to take care of the child.

However, when a man takes legal rights over a baby, it is a 19-year ride, whether he stays with the mother or not. The father not only has visitation and custody rights, but he will have the right to make decisions on behalf of the minor child. He must also pay child support if the parents divorce and the mother has the bulk of the timesharing with the child.

Paternity is often complex, and there are many benefits and ramifications of admitting paternity. Always seek the advice of a paternity attorney before signing any documents giving you legal rights over the child. Please seek an attorney in Louisiana by calling at 504-780-8232 or contact us online.

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