Paternity is the establishment of formal legal rights and relationships between a father and his children. It entails reciprocal duties. For example, the father must provide financial, emotional, and spiritual care to his children, i.e. buy them schoolbooks, purchase them food, and support meaningful recreational activities. Meanwhile, a father may inherit from his children and gains the right to contribute to the raising of his children. Misattributed paternity occurs when a father is wrongfully assigned paternity because he either is not biologically related to them or did not affirmatively accept legal responsibility for them. This post will address the legal issues surrounding misattributed paternity, compensation to which you may be entitled, and how these issues affect you.

You might think that misattributed paternity no longer occurs due to widespread DNA testing. But, DNA tests are not the primary method by which paternity is established, it is primarily done by implication or declaration.

The law implies that a male is the father of a child when he is married to the mother when the child is born. Similarly, an unmarried father may sign a declaration at the hospital shortly after birth attesting that he is the father.

In both of these situations, DNA tests are not administered. Typically when misattributed paternity is discovered it is after some medical test that reveals the child possesses a medical condition not present in either parent.

If this occurs to you, you may get reimbursed for child support paid and the return of property given to the child or mother. The court permits these recoveries because supporting a child is not voluntary and the father was deceived into providing care for a child which was not biologically related to him.

The family law issues surrounding misattributed paternity are rather complex. Modern DNA tests ensure that most men can’t be “forced” into caring for a child that isn’t theirs however the issue is more complicated regarding married or committed couples and infidelity. At that point, there are emotional connections and memories that are not easily severed. A lawyer can go over the ins and outs of a misattributed suit to ensure that you make the right choice.