Questions as to the paternity of a minor child are very common and can often require the court’s involvement. Both mothers and potential fathers can bring a Complaint to Determine Paternity in front of the court.  The court can also order paternity testing in cases where minor children are in need of support or care from their father.

For a child conceived during a marriage, the husband of the child’s mother is presumed to be the father. For a child born outside the marriage, an alleged or, as we say in legalese, putative father is considered the father by law when he acknowledges that he is the father in writing, which could include through a birth certificate. He can also be considered the father by law if he has openly recognized the child as his own and it is commonly known that he is the father. This acknowledgment includes the father raising the child as his own, acknowledging to others that he is the father as well as not denying paternity.  A man can be legally recognized as the father where he subsequently marries the mother after the child’s birth and acknowledges either orally or in writing that he is the father.

Aside from those instances, a putative father can be determined the father when judicially determined by the court, which usually requires blood or genetic testing. A parent wanting to determine the paternity of a minor child can file a Complaint to Determine Paternity and request the court order genetic testing. Unlike other Family Law cases, paternity cases require prior approval from the State’s Attorney’s Office in order to file such a complaint. The State’s Attorney’s office may delegate this task to another department. In Baltimore County, for instance, the Child Support Enforcement Administration has pre-approval authority.  The pre-approval authority can request an individual to submit to a blood test and apply for Court Order if the individual fails to comply.

Complaints to Determine Paternity are likely to be denied by the State’s Attorney or in Court if the request is not in the best interest of the child. If a child has been raised by one man, and that man acknowledges himself as the father or the child has developed an attachment to that man as a father, then it is generally in the child’s best interest not to disrupt that bond by entertaining a third party as the father.

When a person is court-determined to be the father of a minor child, they will be ordered to support to that child. That obligation of support remains in place until the child either becomes an adult, dies, marries, or becomes self-supporting and any support obligation that was over due prior to these events from the date of filing will still be owed. The court can also order that the support moneys be taken out of the father’s paycheck if he has failed to provide the support.