establishing legal paternityIf you were married to a baby’s mother at the time of the infant's birth, there's a legal presumption you're the baby’s father. Of course, not all parents are married when their baby is born, and sometimes a husband is not the baby’s biological father. To benefit the child as well as the parents, it might be necessary to establish paternity definitively.

For a father, a clear answer about paternity permits:

  • Protection of your legal rights as a parent
  • Decisions regarding child custody and visitation
  • You to travel with your child

For a mother, clarity about paternity permits:

  • Legal determination regarding child support responsibilities
  • You to have a parenting partner to help raise the child

For a child, paternity clarification allows him or her to:

  • Have legal rights to certain government programs such as VA and Social Security benefits
  • Be on the father’s health insurance plan
  • Inherit from the father

Most importantly, paternity testing lets the father and child bond without question.

How to Establish Paternity

Paternity may either be established voluntarily or through the court system. If both parents agree, then it's determined by:

  • Listing the father on the birth certificate. If the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth or divorced within 300 days after the baby is born, the husband is considered to be the infant's father unless there's evidence to the contrary.
  • Filing an affidavit with the New Mexico Department of Health. This is enough to establish paternity for purposes of state law, even if the parents aren't married to each other.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to determine the identity of a child’s father. In some cases, genetic testing is required to provide certainty. Options include:

  • Blood tests. For prenatal paternity testing, a sample of the mother's blood is compared to the potential father's blood, as fetal DNA is in her bloodstream. This method is much less invasive than previous in-utero paternity tests and doesn't harm the baby. This test can be done as early as the eighth week of pregnancy.
  • Cheek swabs. For postnatal testing, DNA may be taken from inside the father's cheek or a blood sample and compared to cheek cells from the child, his or her blood sample, or the umbilical cord.

DNA genetic tests are over 99 percent reliable for providing evidence of paternity. It's much more expensive to conduct prenatal testing since clinicians have to isolate the infant's DNA from the mother's. If you can't wait until birth, expect to pay up to $2,000 for prenatal paternity confirmation.

If the child’s mother and the man claiming to be the child’s father don't agree about paternity testing, then either party may file a case with the court at any time before the child's 21st birthday. In these circumstances, a New Mexico court may require paternity testing. If a man refuses to comply with court-mandated testing, the court may conclude he's the father. He'll then have all the legal and financial responsibilities of parenthood.

Contact a New Mexico Paternity Lawyer Today

Whether you're a mother or a father seeking to establish your child’s paternity, it's crucial to work with an experienced New Mexico family law attorney. You want to make sure that accurate paternity is established and legalized through the court or with the New Mexico Department of Health.

Few things in life are as important as knowing the identity of one’s parents and having them accept legal responsibility. The experienced and compassionate family law attorneys at Genus Law Group are ready to help your child live his or her best life. Contact us today for more information.