It is common for any father to feel uncertain about their biological links to their children, especially very young children in an unstable marriage that’s headed for divorce. If you are the alleged father of a child and you believe your marriage is headed for divorce, you should thoroughly investigate any doubts you may hold about the child’s alleged paternity. A paternity test could potentially spare you significant financial burden in the future and also ultimately benefit the child by providing a clear link to their actual biological father.

In most states, the court establishes paternity in divorce cases when a child is born during the divorcing couple’s marriage, before their marriage, or within 300 days of the end of their marriage. The court will also assume paternity if the husband holds himself out to be the father of the child in question. However, this does not mean that a presumed father is automatically responsible for supporting the child regardless of the child’s actual parentage.

Determine Your Jurisdiction’s Paternity Laws

If you petition the court in your jurisdiction for a paternity test, the court will likely grant the request and require you to conduct the paternity test in a specific manner at a designated testing site. It is also possible for the court to require a paternity test during divorce proceedings if any discrepancies come to light that the court believes require verification.

When you expect paternity to be an issue in your divorce case, an attorney can help you determine the next steps. In most cases, if a child’s natural mother alleges their spouse’s paternity of a child, the court will require the alleged father to pay child support to the mother until the results of a paternity test become available. If the test reveals the alleged father is not the biological father of the child, the alleged father can then file a motion to vacate or adjust their child support determination.

Some states may require an alleged father to continue paying child support even after a paternity test shows the child is not the father, at least until the child’s biological father is identified and can be held accountable for supporting the child. This is done to ensure a child does not suffer in the interim. Consult with your attorney to determine how your state’s paternity laws will come into play in your case.

Avoid Significant Financial Burden

It is a sad reality that many alleged fathers are not actually the biological fathers of the children they at first believed to be their own. Once questions arise about a child’s paternity, they can be very difficult to shake. Many alleged fathers in this position will want to conduct a paternity test simply for their own peace of mind, legal obligations aside.

When an alleged father has doubts about the paternity of the children he is being forced to support, a paternity test can be a useful tool. Establishing paternity prior to initiating divorce proceedings is generally a good idea. However, it will be necessary to provide the court with the test results or conduct another court-ordered paternity test for the test results to qualify for consideration in the divorce case.

When any court makes a child support determination in a divorce case, the court will carefully weigh the financial situations of both parents and assess the reasonable cost of raising their children. It is essential to conduct a paternity test as soon as possible, ideally before your divorce proceedings begin, to avoid the significant financial burden that child support entails.

Child support aside, a paternity test may also work in your favor during divorce proceedings. For example, if your wife committed adultery at some point in the marriage, you might not be the biological father of her children. Proving this is the case could constitute fault, which may lead to the court adjusting their equitable distribution ruling in your favor.

Save Your Sanity and Find Peace of Mind

In a divorce case involving questions of paternity, either parent may request a paternity test, or the court may open a paternity case of its own. In any event, a paternity test may be essential for answering the legal questions surrounding a child’s paternity and helping an alleged father achieve peace of mind. You might trust your spouse, but she may be unable to completely tell you the truth about the biological connections you may or may not have to her children. Answering the question of paternity can lay these doubts to rest one way or another and help you feel more secure about the whole situation since you will have the truth.

Paternity issues can be emotionally challenging. In some cases, a father may suspect from day one that they are not the actual father of a child they have been raising. In other cases, an alleged father may raise a child believing wholeheartedly they are their own, only to discover they are not actually biologically related to the child after getting the results of a paternity test. Children may also eventually have questions about their biological parentage, and a paternity test may eventually offer them peace of mind as well in the future.

It can be heartbreaking to confront the fact that you are not actually biologically related to a child you held out as and believed to be your own natural child. However, knowing the truth can be a tremendous relief in a difficult divorce case. In fact, some men will continue to provide for their non-biological children or even adopt them in certain circumstances. This is ultimately a personal choice. The court overseeing the divorce case has a duty to rule in favor of the best interests of any children involved. Ultimately, if a paternity test reveals that you are not actually the father of your wife’s child, then it is your wife’s responsibility to identify the actual father, and the court will likely require the child’s biological father to assume child support responsibilities.

Consulting with an experienced divorce attorney in your jurisdiction is the best way to answer any questions you may have about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to paternity tests in your divorce case.