Perils of Paternity: What Are My Options After Finding Out I’m Not the Father of My 4-Year-Old Child?

Biological Father DNA Paternity Matter

Finding out you’re not the biological father of a child that you’ve helped raise or support can be difficult to come to terms with. It can also be difficult to arrange new terms if you haven’t been in the child’s life but have been paying child support since his or her birth.

Because family courts generally make decisions based on what’s best for the child, submitting DNA evidence that proves you aren’t the child’s biological father may have little to no impact on things like child support unless there are extenuating circumstances and you’re able to identify the child’s biological father.

But by the same token, the court also may rule favorably if you’re seeking to maintain custody and visitation rights—especially if the child already has an established relationship with you—as supporting this relationship is in the child’s best interest.

3 Ways You Can Retain Parental Rights to a Child You’re Not Biologically Related To

Even if you’re not the biological father of a child, you can retain your rights to things like visitation and custody via three scenarios that involve attaining legal parental status, which include:

  • Signing a Voluntary Acknowledge of Paternity (VAP)
    A VAP is a form that allows a man to add his name to a child’s birth certificate if he’s not the biological father and he wasn’t originally listed on the child’s birth certificate. Signing a VAP form means that both parents agree and acknowledge that the man has a parental relationship with a child.
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  • Marrying the child’s mother
    If you were married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, you are legally presumed to be the father. In addition, you also may be legally considered the child’s father if you married his or her mother shortly after the child was born and no one else was established as the father.
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  • Failing to contest or deny being named as the father by the child’s mother
    Child support orders often arise from paternity actions. These actions include judgments of paternity, which are typically based on genetic tests taken of both parents and the child. However, default judgments can occur when the man fails to appear to court and the mother names him as the father. In that case, the man is considered the child’s father by default.

How Does Not Being the Biological Father Affect Custody, Visitation Rights, and Child Support?

Generally, having a previously established relationship with the child means that your rights to custody and visitation won’t be affected by information that proves you aren’t the child’s biological father. It’s almost always in the child’s best interest to continue receiving visits from and developing a relationship with the man that he or she has grown up with or become accustomed to.

However, if you don’t have a relationship with the child, you may be eligible to stop an order for child support. To do so, you must act quickly, as the time frame for possible action can be short. You also may have recourse by alleging that the mother committed fraud by naming you as the father, but this requires proving that she knew you weren’t the biological and that you signed papers declaring your paternity based on her statement.

Finally, you also may need to identify and locate the child’s biological father to prevent him or her from being left without financial support.