Knowing whether or not you are the father of a child will give you peace of mind so that you can go on with your life. Our firm has over thirty years’ experience in paternity actions, and can help you to get the relief that you need, including reasonable visitation and child support for your children. We have fought for, and won, paternity actions all the way through appeals to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and will fight for you.
How is paternity established?
Establishing paternity and reasonable child support and visitation rights can be easily attained either through the statutory procedure compelling compliance or by agreement of the parties. Paternity can be established by being the presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father. Either the mother or father of a child can begin an action to determine paternity.
Paternity is presumed for any child born to a married couple. A woman’s husband is presumed to be the father of any children that she has during the marriage, and court proceedings are necessary in order to determine otherwise. Also, if the mother and father get married after the child is born, paternity might be presumed. Finally, paternity can be presumed if the father resided with the child and “held the child out as his” for the first two years of the child’s life. The relevant statute in Oklahoma is Oklahoma Statutes, Chapter 10, Section 7700-607.
Paternity can also be acknowledged by both parents. Usually, this is when a non-married couple has the father’s name placed on the birth certificate. The parents can also file an Acknowledgement of Paternity with the Department of Human Services. Additionally, if the mother has filed a Paternity Petition with the Court, the father can acknowledge paternity through the court proceedings. You cannot establish paternity through acknowledgment if there is a different person who is the presumed father of the child, unless the presumed father actively denies paternity. For example, if you believe you are the father of a child, but the mother is married to another man and was married to him when she gave birth to the child, you cannot acknowledge paternity unless he denies paternity through a court proceeding. You can file a petition with the Court to have the Court adjudicate you as the father of the child.
Having paternity adjudicated involves presenting evidence to the Court to determine who the father of the child is, and to establish custody, visitation, and child support. The evidence presented to the Court can include genetic testing of the child and potential father, evidence that the purported father has acted in the role of “father” to the child for a certain period of time, and evidence of custody and support of the child. A person does not necessarily have to be the biological father of a child to be adjudicated as the father. For example, if you and the child’s mother were together at the time the child was born, and you have acted as the child’s father for more than the first two years of his life, the Court might find that you are the father of the child, even if a DNA test says that you are not biologically related to the child.
Does proving paternity of a child determine custody and child support arrangements?
Generally, if the child’s parents are not married and do not live together, one of the parents will be established as the “primary custodian” of the child. In Oklahoma, the mother is given presumed custody of all children born outside of a marriage, but the father can gain custody through paternity proceedings by proving it is in the child’s best interest to live with him. The person the child lives with for the majority of the time is the primary custodian of that child. Often, even if one parent is the primary physical custodian of a child, the parents still share legal custody. That means that the parents both share in responsibilities for decision making, medical care, and education of the child. Some couples can agree to full joint custody, which means that the child lives with them each roughly half of the time.
In most cases, the parent whom the child lives with the majority of the time does not pay child support. Having legal custody of a child does not determine whether you pay child support, and you cannot give up your parental responsibility to a child without another person adopting him or without the agreement of the mother of that child.
Even if you have a joint parenting agreement and split custody evenly, then the parent who has the greater income might have to pay support for the child, even though the child lives with that person half of the time.
What do I need to do next?
We will go over your case and we will assist you in establishing an action plan. Then we will file any needed paperwork and attend to putting together your evidence so that we can efficiently get this matter behind you. To help us get started, we ask you to write the story out, in your own words, and bring it to our first meeting. You should completely describe every facet you can recall of your relationship with the mother and child in detail in two to five pages. This helps us to understand your situation, and also helps to save time and money in legal fees and research.
What if I can’t come to meet you?
We will find a place and time that works for you, and we will come meet with you to discuss your situation, to go over the materials that you bring with you, and to come up with a strategy that will help you to establish paternity of your child.
Why is your firm the best choice?
This firm has over thirty years of practice in trial law and we see your case from your perspective. We know, first-hand, of the issues facing a single father. We will work with you to protect your rights and also to do what is best for your children.