Paternity FAQ – Answers by James H. Wilson Law Firm

Understanding the intricacies of paternity law can be complex. Our compilation of frequently asked questions aims to clarify the legal intricacies surrounding paternity.

Who is Legally Considered a Child’s Father?

Determining legal fatherhood involves more than a simple acknowledgment. It encompasses various legal situations that recognize men as a child’s father.

Acknowledged Father

An acknowledged father is a man who has accepted responsibility for a child conceived with unmarried parents. Paternity is confirmed either by the father’s admission or mutual parental consent. Responsibilities for an acknowledged father include providing child support.

Presumed Father

A man may be presumed to be the child’s father based on the following criteria until disproven in court:

  • Marriage to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s conception or birth, with exceptions in cases of separation in certain states.
  • Engagement in marriage (legitimate or not) to the mother with the child conceived or born during that period.
  • Post-birth marriage to the mother, with an agreement to be named on the birth certificate or to provide support.
  • Open acceptance of the child into his home, treating the child as his own.

Presumptions of paternity can be absolute in some states, withstanding even contradictory evidence. This presumption has been supported by the U.S. Supreme Court for family integrity’s sake, as seen in Michael H. v. Gerald D. A presumed father is responsible for child support.

Equitable Parent

States like Michigan and Wisconsin recognize the concept of the equitable parent, where a non-biological, non-adoptive spouse can obtain custody or visitation rights if there is a strong bond with the child, or if such a relationship is fostered by the biological parent. An equitable parent, once granted custody or visitation, is similarly required to support the child financially.

Unwed Father

An unmarried man who fathers a child has specific rights and responsibilities. While he may not dictate decisions during pregnancy, including abortion, he is responsible for child support following the birth if recognized as the father through court or acknowledgment. He also possesses rights to visitation and may request custody.


A stepfather’s financial obligations to his stepchildren are absent unless he adopts them legally.

How Can I Ensure the Biological Father of My Child Pays Child Support?

To enforce child support, a paternity action must be filed. This legal suit can be initiated by either parent and, once paternity is confirmed, will lead to mandatory child support payments as well as custody or visitation rights for the father. Nowadays, paternity can be conclusively determined or excluded through DNA testing.

Welfare authorities often start paternity actions to obtain repayment from the biological father when aiding the mother with TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families). The mother’s cooperation is crucial in these legal proceedings; otherwise, her TANF benefits could be reduced or withdrawn.

Paternity actions are also referred to as establishment hearings, filiation hearings, or parentage actions.

To navigate the complexities of paternity law, reach out to James H. Wilson at 804.740.6464 for legal guidance and representation.

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