Establishing Paternity in a Civil Action Regarding Children Born Out of Wedlock

The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the rights to conceive and to raise one's children have been deemed essential, basic civil rights of man, and rights far more precious than property rights. It is cardinal that the custody, care, and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. The integrity of the family unit has consistently found protection in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clause, as well as the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution. However, the tradition family unit now takes on many different forms as our idea of family has changed and evolved.

Specifically, the growing number of unmarried couples has risen dramatically in the United States. Unmarried fathers must establish paternity through a civil action or by taking some further step in declaring paternity, such as signing an affidavit of paternity. Paternity means fatherhood and establishing paternity is the legal process of determining the father of the child.

Time Restrictions to Establish Paternity

At any time prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday, the paternity of a child born out of wedlock may be established by civil action. If the action to establish paternity is brought more than three years after the child’s birth, then paternity may only be established in a contested case with evidence from a blood or genetic marker test.

Statutory Requirements to Establish Paternity

In order to successfully establish paternity under North Carolina statute, proof of paternity must be offered by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. If the results of a blood or genetic test shows that the probability of the alleged father’s parentage is ninety-seven percent (97%), then pursuant to the statutory provisions, the test satisfies the clear, cogent, and convincing evidentiary standard codified in the statute to establish paternity.

The complaint filed to establish paternity must contain a copy of the child’s birth certificate. In addition, if known, the child’s parents social security numbers shall be kept in the record of the proceeding. In the event that paternity is established, it shall not have the effect of legitimation. Legitimation is the act of giving the status of legitimacy to a child whose parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth.

Custody and Support of a Child Upon the Establishment of Paternity

Once the father has established paternity pursuant to the statutory requirements, the rights, duties, and obligations of the mother and father shall be the same, with regard to support and custody of the child. Subsequently, support and custody of the child may be determined and enforced as if the child were the legitimate child of the father and mother. When paternity has been established, the father can become responsible for medical expenses accrued as a result of the pregnancy and birth of the child.

Protecting Father’s Rights in North Carolina

Parents play a crucial role in the upbringing of a child. Children look to their parents to provide and care for them until they are able to do so for themselves. The relationship between a parent and a child is extremely special, and so important. In recognition of the significance of such a relationship, North Carolina has enacted laws that protect this relationship and safeguard the rights of both the parents and children. When issues regarding the parent/child relationship arise, parties commonly find themselves in family court seeking an enforceable and definitive resolution.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

Family law cases involving the process of establishing paternity can be extremely complex and overwhelming. In addition, few fathers are aware of their parental rights. In proceedings involving father’s rights in establishing paternity, seeking child support or child custody, it is vital that fathers contact an experienced family law attorney who has successfully represented clients in protecting their parental rights.

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our attorneys have successfully represented fathers in actions involving paternity, child support, and child custody issues. Our attorneys inform clients of their rights and work with them to build a strong case. We pride ourselves on being honest with clients and explaining the realistic potential outcomes of their case. Call our office at 704.370.2828 or fill out our contact form online to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys to discuss your legal options. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Union County.