Proving paternity can create child support obligation in Mississippi

Legally establishing who a child's father is can be tricky in some situations. But paternity matters in many ways.

Parents who are raising a child without the other parent in the house may be entitled to child support from that parent. But in some cases, it can be relatively complicated to assign support, such as when the man the mother says is the father disputes paternity.

When the alleged father denies paternity, or if more than one man believes he may be the father of the child, it may be necessary to have a paternity test. In Mississippi, A Simple Acknowledgment of Paternity (ASAP) is the voluntary way to establish paternity. ASAP testing can be done at the hospital, or at government agencies like the Department of Health. If the testing proves paternity with 98 percent certainty, the court will presume that the man is the father.

Sometimes, one of the parties does not want to participate in the paternity test. In that case, all of the three parties involved -- mother, alleged father or child -- have the right to file a complaint with the court in order to establish possible paternity. However, it must be before the child turns 18.

Paternity and marriage

Mississippi law presumes that a child who is born to a married woman is the biological son or daughter of the mother's husband. In reality, a child may be the result of an extramarital affair, or may be conceived while the mother is in the midst of divorce but still married.

In this situation, the biological father may wish to establish paternity, so that he will have visitation time and other parental rights over the child. Or the mother may seek child support from the real father. In this way, paternity can be part of the divorce proceedings.

However, readers should keep in mind that the court will not automatically grant paternity to a man other than the husband, even if he and the mother both claim he fathered the child. Depending on what evidence the parties present, the judge may decide to keep the ex-husband as the legal father. He would then likely be responsible for child support, while the biological father would be denied a legally protected relationship.

Why paternity matters

Besides child custody and support matters, proving paternity can make an important difference in the lives of all people involved. It may give the child two parents instead of one. If nothing else, he or she may be able to learn about possible genetic medical conditions he or she would not otherwise know about. Establishing paternity can also give the father the chance to be an important part of the child's life.

Keywords: child support, paternity tests, child custody