A mother who resides in Norway is pursuing a case against my client who resides in California. As noted in my prior articles, Department of Child Support will enforce child support cases even if the mother and child is outside of the United States since we have treaties with certain countries.

My client did not want the case to “drag” on but he was sure it was not his child. I explained to him that he has every right to request a genetic testing and both parents will be tested and the initial costs being paid by the government. The test came back 100% that he is not the father.

However, the case did not stop there—the mother is now trying to establish parentage by estoppel. But I am hoping reasonable minds will “step in.” The Court did allow the mother to hire her own laboratory to examine the results, but this time, the expenses are to be incurred by her.

If there is one scintilla of doubt about paternity—genetic testing will resolve this matter (in the scientific level). As mentioned, there are other ways to establish paternity even though a father is not the biological parent. But it is critical that a client does not forego this threshold question and waive his right to genetic testing. 

Paternity cases capture public attention and grab headlines:  A man in Texas discovers three of his four children are not his; a former Marine sergeant seeks visitation rights for children he fathered while he and the mother were married to others; an Indiana man fights to retain custody of a child that is not biologically his and of course, the most recent tabloid paternity case is who was the father of the child of the late Anna Nicole Smith.  Each story is unique, and both legislatures and courts are struggling to find the solutions to the complex problem of establishing a child’s paternity with some finality in order to provide that child with stability and a legal right for child support.

The recent advances and popularity of DNA and genetic testing have allowed conclusive establishment and disestablishment of paternity.  However, this has created new issues.  For years, any child born to a married couple has been presumed to be a child of the marriage, and the husband the legal father. In California, the marital presumption of paternity has been codified.  This law simply finds that a child born to a woman who is cohabitating with her husband is conclusively presumed to be a child of the marriage.

The states’ differ in the requirements to challenge paternity.  In Illinois, only the child, the mother or the presumed father can challenge paternity.  In Delaware, anyone can bring a challenge at any time.  States also have different time limits for setting aside a legally established paternity.  Alaska requires it to be brought within 3 years of the child’s birth, or within 3 years after the challenger knew or should have known of the child’s paternity.  Washington requires that a challenge be brought “within a reasonable time.”  Maryland requires anyone challenging the voluntary acknowledgments of paternity to be initiated in writing within 60 days of signing.  Clearly, the attorney representing you must be aware of the statute of limitations for bringing forward the motion to set aside paternity.

Historically, fathers of illegitimate children had no legal duty to support them.  But increases in the number of children born out of wedlock and social and financial consequences of this policy resulted in the establishment of financial duties owed by unmarried fathers to their children.  But courts are all over the place in their rulings.

Courts are more likely also to allow a set aside of paternity if the parents were never married. For example, the Ohio Supreme Court granted the set aside of a paternity in a case where the man never responded to court documents establishing paternity and child support concluding in a default judgment.  This man, however, obtained a DNA test that excluded him as the father.

This is in contrast to a case in Massachusetts in which the court ruled that a man was required to continue to pay child support for a child that is not biologically his but had supported this child for most of her seven years of life.  Moreover, he held this child out to be his, despite suspicions and rumors that he may not be her biological father.  The court found that there is a compelling public interest in the finality of paternity judgments, especially where there is a substantial parent-child relationship.

Many paternity and support judgments all over the nation are entered by default.  It is not uncommon that many fathers are not aware that they are fathers until their wages have been garnished by the state.  To receive federal funds on child support orders, states must name the father of the children on government assistance. Since there is no requirement for DNA testing for paternity, there is no state requirement in California and most states. Indeed, father’s rights advocates argue that there is an incentive for states to bypass costly genetic testing.

Most states, once paternity has been established, a monetary child support is ordered by the court have agreements to enforce such court orders.  The Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the Franchise Tax Board are just some agencies that will be aware of this order.  In fact, a client is now having his passport renewal denied due to arrears (back due child support).  Employers, of course will be aware due to the wage garnishment order that they must comply with. Failure to comply with the support orders can detrimentally affect your driver’s license, your credit report and liens on all your real estate properties.

If you have any further inquiries, contact my office at 310-601-7144 or email me at [email protected] or visit my website, attycastaneda.com To receive updates on legal matters, please like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/attycarinacastaneda/ or follow us on Twitter: @AttyCastaneda and Instagram: @atty.castaneda.