Are you concerned that you are not the father of the child? Are you concerned that the man claiming to be the father of the child is not the father of the child? Rather than make a mistake and agree to acknowledge paternity or just not respond, it is a better idea to act on that concern and be certain regarding paternity. Paternity suits can begin a few different ways for alleged fathers (fathers who have not had their paternity established).
If you believe you are the father of the child but you have not signed the acknowledgment of paternity and you are not on the birth certificate, you will need to file a suit to adjudicate parentage. If you are the mother and you believe a man to be the father, you also can file this action. In both scenarios, a request of DNA testing must be made. It is always a better plan of action, for several purposes such as admissibility of the results, that the Court order the DNA testing. The other scenario of a paternity suit is if the Office of the Attorney General (AG) initiates an action against you and is requesting that your paternity be established through DNA testing. If the AG files suit, they will have both parents served and will request a hearing in front of the judge to have the DNA testing ordered. The AG’s office will pay for the DNA testing, typically. The reason the AG office might initiate the action could be for a couple of reasons. Either the mother of the child sent in a request for the AG to file the action because of child support; OR, the child is receiving government assistance through Medicaid and therefore the child is on the AG’s system. If the latter, the AG has an interest in the action when government assistance is received and so therefore, once paternity is established they will then seek cash medical support (which can be up to 9% of the obligor’s annual resources).
To have paternity established, you will either need to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity which will need to be filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Or, you will need to submit to a DNA test in which samples will be taken from you and the child (the mother of the child will be ordered to take the child to the testing facility on a date and time certain) and then you wait for the results to come back, which are 99.9% accurate. It is advisable to always go the latter route to ensure, through DNA, that you are you in fact the father. Once paternity is established in either of these scenarios, the Court can then proceed with setting up additional orders such as visitation, electronic communication, child support, and cash medical support. You will need an attorney to ensure all of the proper steps are taken and that all of the appropriate orders are made.
Regardless of which scenario you are involved in, consult with an attorney to discuss all of your options and to discuss what is best for you and your family.