Paternity issues can be complicated. Oklahoma is a state in which paternity is presumed when parents are married. So if you and your wife have a child, you will be presumed to be the father absent other compelling evidence.
Likewise, when a couple is unmarried and the woman bears a child, even if you are cohabitating, the law will not presume that you are the father. That means, that you have no legal rights regarding that child. If you want to establish a legal father-child relationship, you must establish paternity.
There are two basic ways to do this in Oklahoma. It is important to note that establishing paternity is one thing, and getting an order that allows custody or visitation is another.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
An acknowledgement of paternity is the easiest way to establish your child’s parentage. This is a legal document that both parents sign — usually at the hospital — acknowledging the father is the biological and legal parent of the child.
This is a legally binding document that grants certain rights and duties upon you as a parent. However, it is not the same thing as a custody or visitation order. Thus, if you and your partner are on good terms — perhaps still living together — this document can be helpful to establish parentage should the need arise later.
File a Legal Action
The second way to establish paternity is by filing a lawsuit to establish paternity in district court. This is the only way to establish paternity if the child’s mother will not sign an acknowledgement of paternity.
As part of this action, once parentage is established, the court also will set custody, support and visitation orders regarding the child. Paternity is established by DNA testing, which is ordered by the court.
The most common legal paternity testing is done by an accredited lab by gently swabbing the inside of your mouth with a cotton swab, capturing your DNA. Epithelial cells adhere to the swab and these cells contain DNA that can be analyzed in a lab.
This method is non-invasive, and it is easy to get DNA evidence from both you and the child in question. Most importantly, this method is usually deemed sufficient by the judge hearing the matter. If the judge feels that it is insufficient, the judge may order that a blood test be used instead.
DNA testing is the only conclusive methodology used in these cases. And establishing paternity is a prerequisite for a number of legal rights, duties and privileges regarding the relationship between parents and children, and between the parents with regard to a child.
It is important to use an experienced attorney for this type of lawsuit. And while working with Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services can get you help with establishing child support, this department cannot help establish custody or visitation rights.
You need the help of a Muskogee divorce attorney. Call us today to get the help you need.
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