Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law

Custody dispute: Can DNA tests protect paternal rights?

To challenge or confirm paternity, DNA tests are typically used. Anyone in Massachusetts who is involved in a visitation or custody dispute in which paternity is questioned typically benefits from utilizing professional help to resolve such issues. A group is fighting for change in paternity laws in another state and provided two entirely different scenarios in which DNA testing made no difference.

The first case involves a man who signed an affidavit of paternity upon the birth of what he believed to be his son, based upon the representations of the birth mother. For several years, the boy was part of the man's family; when the child was 7, the man told the boy's mother that he wanted to petition the court for more visitation time. To his surprise, subsequent DNA testing proved he was not the biological father, and the court then denied any visitation. However, since the man had not contested the paternity affidavit within four years of its execution, the state still considered him the father and required that child support payments be continued.

The second case involves a man who fathered a daughter with a woman who was married to another man. When the girl was born, the husband's name was put on the paternity affidavit, though there was no attempt to deny the other man was actually the birth father, and he was allowed regular visitation with his child. However, after some years, the visits lead to arguments. This man was also unaware of the state's four-year limit to change the affidavit of paternity. Since it was long past the deadline, the court denied him any legal rights to his daughter.

Paternity laws vary from state to state. Any Massachusetts parent who is involved in a custody dispute will need to gain knowledge of the relevant laws and court procedures in this state. Being proactive and securing the guidance of an experienced family law attorney simply makes good sense. 

Source: komonews.com, "Families battle over so-called Paternity Fraud", Tracy Vedder, Jan. 13, 2016

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