A divorce is already a messy and emotional event that nearly 50 percent of married couples go through. It gets even more complicated when children are involved. Questions of paternity and custody rights can make an already tense situation harder to get through. With that in mind, we have gathered some information regarding paternity as it pertains to custody. Whether you are going through a divorce or you are revisiting previously established custody rulings, you need a good family lawyer on your side. Call the Law Office of Tobie Kuykendall today for your free consultation.

-What is a paternity test and how does it work?

Paternity is defined as the biological father of a child. Therefore, a paternity test is implemented to determine who is a child’s biological father. To do this, DNA is taken from both the father and the child, which is then analyzed to determine if the man is the child’s father. To collect the DNA, there are two different processes used; either the inside of each person’s cheek is swabbed to collect loose cells or a blood sample is taken. Depending on the age of the child, a cheek swab is often the better option, as it is less invasive and will cause them less anxiety than getting their blood drawn.

Paternity tests are incredibly accurate. Human beings contain 46 chromosomes and children receive 23 chromosomes from each of their parents. That means that a father and child will share 23 chromosomes. When the DNA is tested, it is spliced and analyzed to determine if any of the chromosomes contained within match. If the DNA matches, there is a 99.9 percent possibility that the man is the child’s father. However, if the DNA does not match, then the man who was tested is not the father.

-Why would a paternity test be needed?

The primary reason a paternity test would be necessary is, naturally, to determine a child’s paternity. This comes into play prominently in cases of divorce, as it will determine custody and child support payments. However, when a couple is married, it is assumed that the wife’s husband is the father of the child. If either parent is concerned that the child may have a different father, a paternity test can set the record straight.

In a case where a mother has been in an exclusive relationship with a man and he continues to be a part of her life, he can establish his claim to paternity at the time of the child’s birth, signing papers stating that he is the father. That man can still take a paternity test in the future to confirm he is indeed the father if he so chooses.

If there is a situation where the mother is unsure of who the father is or the man she names as the father wants proof, a paternity test can be used to determine for sure whether or not he is the child’s father. The court will require a paternity test in situations like this to resolve paternity and establish a ruling on child custody. Establishing paternity is vital, as it allows the court to correctly determine child support and other obligations for the correct person. Once paternity is established, whether the father agrees that the child is his or by DNA testing, he will then have all of the rights and responsibilities fatherhood carries with it.

-Can paternity be established prior to a baby’s birth?

While it is possible to test a baby’s DNA while still in the womb, the different methods of testing carry potential risks. One such test involves a doctor extracting amniotic fluid or other tissue from within the mother with a long needle. That fluid can then be tested and the DNA compared with the father to establish paternity. While this form of prenatal DNA testing is just as accurate as other methods, it can increase the risk of a miscarriage, along with other potential risks. If it is at all possible, this method should be avoided to protect the health of the baby.

Another option is to conduct a paternity test using the mother’s blood, though this will only work if there is free-floating fetal DNA present. The potential of finding free-floating fetal DNA increases with gestational age.

Sometimes, parents feel it is important to establish paternity prior to a baby’s birth. They may want to do this to be sure who the father is, which will allow them to begin bonding with the baby as soon as they are born. A father is more likely to be hesitant about bonding with a baby he do not believe is actually his. Establishing paternity early on is also important, as it ensures the child’s paternal medical history is accurate. It will also allow the child access to social benefits like social security and veteran’s benefits, along with child support.

-What happens after paternity has been established?

If it has been established that you are the father of a child, you are both obligated and entitled to parental and custodial rights. This means you will have the right to visitation with your child and to be involved in their upbringing. You will also carry the responsibilities of a parent, including providing for them financially, emotionally, physically, and otherwise. After paternity has been established, you will need to protect those custodial and parental rights.

-What rights do fathers have?

As most states do not discriminate against parents based on gender, it stands to reason that a father has the same rights as a mother. With that being said, some fathers have felt their parental rights become lessened after a court battle. If it is important to you that you maintain your parental rights, you will need to fight for them. It is for that reason it is recommended you develop a parenting plan in conjunction with the child’s mother, as an agreed-upon roadmap pertaining to the care and parenting of the child.

If you have further questions pertaining to paternity and child custody, please don’t hesitate to call us at the Law Office of Tobie Kuykendall. We’re located here in Austin and are experts when it comes to family law in Texas. Call us today for your free consultation.