Paternity and child support are frequently linked legal terms in family law. In many areas around the world, the parents of a child are legally obligated to pay support for that child until the age of adulthood is reached. Paternity is a term for the establishment of the father of a child, making the father subject to the rights of visitation or custody as well as responsible for a portion of child support. Establishing paternity and child support is often a part of divorce, separation, or civil suits for division of responsibilities.
In 1992, the United Nations created a binding bill establishing that child support is a necessary part of law for all nations. Most nations, whether signatories or not, have since established some form of child support law, as the well-being of children is a major factor in a country's future. Most link paternity and child support, though in some regions if a non-biological parent adopts the children of his spouse or partner, he becomes financially responsible for the children even without biological paternity.
There are several ways that paternity can be voluntarily established, though these rules may vary regionally. At the birth of a child, a father can fill out legal documents that establish paternity. This method is generally signified by signing a birth certificate document. At any time after birth, a father can generally submit a voluntary legal statement that confirms him as the father of a child and makes him legally responsible.
Involuntary paternity and child support are unfortunately a major concern of family law courts. If a man refuses to admit paternity voluntarily, the court can generally order a DNA test to prove or disprove paternity. Many courts automatically accept the results of a DNA test, as accuracy levels are extremely high. If a man is found through DNA testing to be the father of a child, he is usually made responsible for child support.
If a DNA test to establish paternity and child support is ordered but refused by a man believed to be a father, the court can decide to establish paternity by default. By refusing the test, a man can still be forced to pay child support and have no legal means of disproving the allegation of paternity. If there is some question of paternity, some experts recommend agreeing to the test to establish facts beyond a reasonable doubt.
The process of paternity and child support determination can be difficult for all involved, but it is important to remember it can be most difficult for the children in question. Those beyond infancy may easily get the impression that no one wants to claim them as family or take care of them, something that child psychologists believe can have a lifelong effect on self-esteem and behavior. For the sake of the child's well-being, it is very important the adults involved do their utmost to maintain civility and a responsible attitude, even in extreme cases.