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Doubts about paternity? Consider DNA test sooner not later

When a couple gives birth to a newborn child in Louisiana and the couple is married, the husband is placed on the birth certificate as the father without any second thoughts. But if the couple is not married or someone has doubts about whom the father is, what then? When paternity becomes an issue, there is at least one way that this can be confirmed: a DNA test.

If paternity is uncertain, the process of resolving the question is better done earlier, rather than later. This is because in most states, a man that raises a child will be legally viewed as the child's father should any separation occur between the parents. This may mean that they will be held liable for expenses related to the child, regardless of whether or not they are biologically related. Child support may be awarded and the man, father or not, will be required to pay it.

What happens if your doubts aren't raised until after the child is grown and effectively on his or her own? Is there any redress? The answer, legally, is that outside of a divorce, there may not be.

While a DNA test may provide some resolution to questions about paternity, and there may be some value in that, there are those who might rightly question whether such test results should be used for anything else -- such as seeking to recoup the costs of raising the child as part of a divorce settlement. Many courts have ruled that men are financially bound to children that they have already raised -- biological connection, or disconnection, notwithstanding.

The best advice then would seem to be that instead of waiting 15 years to confirm that a child you thought was yours was actually the result of your wife's affair with another, consider having a DNA test conducted much sooner. This can solidify your position as the father, if that is the case, or allow you to avoid undue child support obligations, if you are not.

Source: Star-Ledger, "Paternity test can't erase a father's role: Editorial," Oct. 15, 2012

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