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How is paternity established here in North Carolina?

Without a doubt, one of the single greatest joys in life is the moment a child is born. Indeed, the happiness and excitement in the days before and immediately after the birth is understandably so great that the last thing on anyone’s mind is any sort of legal matter.

However, once this initial elation starts to subside, there is a least one legal issue that parents who are not married will want to address sooner than later: paternity.

When it comes to paternity, the law in North Carolina presumes that the father of a child born to a married couple is the husband. However, no such presumption exists when a child is born to unwed parents.

In fact, the issue of identifying the legal father of a child can essentially go one of two ways: voluntary recognition of paternity or a court order.

Regarding the first, the putative father can become the legal father by voluntarily signing a document known as an Affidavit of Parentage, which is then filed with N.C. Vital Records. This will result in the father’s name being added to the child’s birth certificate.

In the event a person denies that he is the father of the child or the identity of the biological father is uncertain, the matter will need to be resolved via the courts.

Specifically, the mother will need to file a formal complaint initiating a legal action and serve notice on any alleged father. Thereafter paternity testing, meaning a DNA test taking cheek swabs from the child, mother and alleged father(s), will occur. A court hearing will then be held and paternity established based on the results of the DNA test, which is considered incredibly accurate.  

We will continue this discussion in a future post, including exploring the benefits associated with the establishment of paternity.

If you have questions or concerns relating to paternity or any other family law issue, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.