Welcoming a child into the world is an exciting event for the parents, family and friends. There are usually lots of congratulations passed around and anticipation about the kind of person the new child will become. There are situations where the joy may be tempered if the father of the child is unknown or wants no part in the life of the mother or baby. In circumstances where the father is estranged and the mother wants support for the child, or the biological father wants to obtain the legal rights of a parent over the baby, establishing paternity is necessary to get either result. Paternity is established through filing an acknowledgment of paternity form or going through a paternity trial. Once a man is named the legal father, he assumes financial responsibility for the child and receives the right to make decisions about the child’s life. However, what if the man named as the legal father wants to challenge the paternity determination? A man in Iowa is facing this dilemma after his estranged wife of sixteen years recently gave birth, and the state is wants him to pay child support. Under Iowa law, a man is presumed to be the father of any child birthed by his wife and must petition to “de-establish” paternity with a court. Michigan has similar presumption that names a husband the father of his wife’s child, but it does provide a mechanism to challenge paternity determinations.
Revocation of an Acknowledgment of Paternity
It is worth noting, as a preliminary point, that if paternity is not challenged within the time periods described in this article, the man named as the legal father cannot get out of the child support obligation that comes with that designation. Just as there are a number of ways a man can be declared a father, there are also a number to legally challenge a paternity determination. The first, seeking revocation of an acknowledgement of paternity, can be filed by the mother, the acknowledged father, the alleged father or a prosecutor. This petition must be filed within three years of the child’s birth or one year after the acknowledgement of paternity was signed, whichever occurs later. The following grounds, plus a genetic test, justify revoking an acknowledgement of paternity:
- mistake of fact;
- newly discovered evidence unavailable when the acknowledgement was signed;
- misrepresentation or misconduct; or
Challenging the Genetics
The next type of petition, challenging the man’s genetic connection to the child, may be filed by the mother, the alleged father, the genetic father or a prosecutor within three years of the child’s birth or one year after the genetic father was named, whichever is later. In this situation, paternity is challenged on the basis of claims that:
- the genetic tests were inaccurate;
- the man’s genetic material was not available to the mother; or
- a man with identical DNA to genetic father is the child’s father.
Child Born Out of Wedlock
The third petition relates to situations where a married man is presumed to be the father of a child from his wife. The grounds for overturning a presumption of parentage in this case depend upon who is challenging paternity. If it is the mother, she must name the alleged father and show the child was openly acknowledged to belong to alleged father by herself, the presumed father and the alleged father. Alternatively, she can show the presumed father was not involved with the child for at least two years and has provided no financial support. If the alleged father is challenging paternity, he must prove to the court that he did not know the mother was married at the time of conception and at some point, the mother, the presumed father and the alleged father all openly acknowledged the child belonged to the alleged father.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
If you have reason to suspect you are not the father of a child and do not believe you should be required to pay child support, it is important to challenge paternity as soon as possible to make sure you stay within the time limits set under state law. The Clinton Township law firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. can advise you on the process to challenge paternity and help you regain your rights. Contact them to schedule a free consultation.