Paternity in a Custody Case
Sometimes the paternity of a child becomes a factor in child custody cases when the mother goes to court for child support of a child born out of wedlock.
Unlike maternity, which is never uncertain from a legal standpoint, paternity can be in doubt and give rise to a paternity suit, which is a legal action to determine whether a man is the father of a child. The purpose of this action is to enforce support obligations.
Under the doctrine of paternity estoppel, a man cannot present himself to the world as the father of a child, and then change his mind at some later date in the event the he discovers in some way that he is in fact not the biological father of child, nor can a mother whose romantic involvements may have changed deny the paternity of a man she formerly named as the father of her child.
Paternity estoppel comes into play when 1) one party misrepresents paternity and 2) makes that misrepresentation with actual and constructive knowledge of the truth concerning paternity; 3) when the misrepresentation is made in a way that is "both natural and probable that it will be relied upon by the other party or the child"; 4) when either the presumed father or child relies upon it in a way that 5) "was reasonable under the facts"; and 6) that reliance resulted "in injury."
Courts hold men to a strict liability for a child that results from their sperm. A man cannot enter into consent agreement with a woman to impregnate her, and then contend that he is but a sperm donor without a responsibility to support the child. Nor can the woman who becomes pregnant as a result of such an agreement waive child support. Courts have ruled that, outside of the jurisdiction's statute on artificial insemination, a man cannot waive his parental rights (or the responsibility of child support), nor can a mother. To do so goes against public policy.
Technological advances such as DNA testing have made paternity a question of science, not law. These advances have undermined Lord Mansfield's Rule, which render inadmissible the testimony of either spouse as to whether a husband had access to his wife at the time of conception. In some jurisdictions, Lord Mansfield's rule has been abandoned.
Useful Online Tools
Resources & Tools
PARENTING CLASSES -- In some jurisdictions, parenting classes for the parents of minors are now required as a preliminary to divorce. The classes teach parents how to minimize the negative effects of divorce on their children and serve to restate parental responsibilities in the context of divorce. They are not an eleventh-hour attempt at marriage counseling.
Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
How to Win Child Custody
Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases
Established in 1996
© 1996 - 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Divorce Source. All Rights Reserved.