Going through a divorce is a traumatic and emotionally draining experience, especially when infidelity is involved. When the discovery of infidelity has you seeking a paternity test, you may be wondering what happens if it turns out that the child you’ve raised is not your biological child. Would a court really deny you an ongoing relationship with the child when you’re the only father figure the child has ever known all because you aren’t biologically related? Also, what rights does the biological father have to the child? And, will the rights of the biological father supersede your rights? Unfortunately, in situations such as the aforementioned, there aren’t always clear answers due to the fact that circumstances vary significantly from case to case.
When There’s Doubt
If there are doubts about the child’s paternity, either the mother or the father can ask the court to establish paternity. This can mean that the expected father and child have to take a DNA test. If the prospective parent is ordered to take a DNA test, they are legally required to take the test. There is no way to get out of taking the test. However, if you know that you’re the biological father, you can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) without taking a paternity test. It would be best to take a paternity test before signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. The VAP can only be rescinded under very strict circumstances. It’s not a document that should be signed without understanding the consequences of doing so. It would be wise to seek independent advice of counsel before doing so. If you sign the VAP, and it turns out the child isn’t biologically yours, you may be unable to challenge the paternity of the child since it’s already been established.
It is less likely that a court would award parent time to a person who is not either the biological, or adoptive, parent of a child. We see this most often in cases of step-children. For example, if you have a step-child, and you get divorced, you will not have any legal right to be involved in your step-child’s life unless you legally adopted them. This is true even if the child in question has been your step-child since they were only a few months old. The same may be true if you find out that your child isn’t biologically your child. Whether or not you’d be able to legally adopt the child would depend on several factors: how old is the child, does the biological father wish to be involved, is the identity of the biological father known, what does the child want, what does the mother want, and more. A court would likely have a lot of discretion in a circumstance such as the aforementioned. The court may provide parent-time for a non-biological parent who has taken the role of a parent, particularly if paternity is presumed. For example, a married couple has children during the marriage and then learns that the child that he has helped raise is not biologically his. It would likely be in the best interest of the child for the parent to maintain that relationship after the divorce, particularly if the child is older.
If you find out that one of your children isn’t biologically yours, it is not likely that you will be obligated to pay child support unless you legally adopt them. If you do not wish to adopt the child, you will not have any obligation toward them. However, if you do not adopt the child, you will not have any right to be involved in their life either. Simply put, if you want to have a legal right to be in the child’s life, you may be ordered to pay child support. If you have voluntarily acknowledged paternity only to find out the child wasn’t yours, and you’ve already paid child support, it may be difficult to get the money back.
Adopting the Child
Even though you aren’t biologically the father, you may still be able to adopt the child, provided that the biological father does not wish to, or is unable to, be involved. If the child’s mother doesn’t agree to the adoption, you may still be able to adopt the child if there’s no one else who wants to adopt the child and the court finds that it’s in the best interest of the child. At a certain age the child must also consent to the adoption. This may heavily depend on the child’s age and a judge’s discretion. If you find yourself in a situation such as the aforementioned, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced family law attorney to help protect your rights, and help you get the best outcome possible. If you have concerns about paternity and custody, contact CoilLaw today to set up an initial consultation.