Paternity Issues a.k.a. 'Am I the Father?'
A woman who you were with one Saturday night over a year ago appears at your door with an 11-month-old baby. She advises you that the baby is your son. She says he looks just like you. In a difference instance, the sheriff or a private process server says to you ‘’Are you Mr. -----------. ‘’ You say “Yes” and then you are served with a paternity suit. This means you have been sued to appear in court for a hearing and to first answer the court paper that you were served with called a Complaint to Establish Paternity. Within 30 days of the date you were given the court papers, you or your attorney must file an answer to the complaint. If you do not answer the court papers within that 30-day time period, the court can will rule against you.Why have lawyers?
First you have the right under both the United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights to due process which includes legal representation to make certain you are truly the father. If you are determined to be the father, you will have the financial burden to support the child from the date of filing of the complaint until the child reaches age 18. If the child is 18 and still attending high school, the child support and needs of the child extend to age 19, but not beyond age 19.
What can the lawyer accomplish? First, an investigation into your alleged involvement with the mother can be conducted. An investigation can be conducted into what is called the “critical period” to determine if others had sexual access with the mother. “Critical period” means that the time when the mother conceived the child. Often the case is filed after the child is born but the law permits filing the paternity suit at the time the mother conceived the child who was born approximately within 9 months of the date of conception.
Second, a lawyer is needed to be certain that your rights are protected in that the burden of proof is on the mother to prove you are the father.
As part of efforts to protect your rights, we would be permitted to perform what is called “discovery”. Discovery is performed in a number of ways. We will file written questions called “Interrogatories” that the alleged mother must answer under oath. The Interrogatories will lead to a clear understanding of the facts of the case so that we are prepared to defend you as well as identify other possible fathers. We will also file a request for the production of documents that asks for financials records; leases; correspondence that may have occurred between you and the alleged mother such as emails, letters, cards such as Valentine and other cards and correspondence; and correspondence between the mother and other boyfriends. The Interrogatories often involve more than 30 questions and subparts. We request many more documents and often the number of requests exceeds 50 to 100 or more. After receipt of both the answers to Interrogatories and responses to our request for production of documents, we will file a request to depose the mother and, on a date certain, the mother will appear at a deposition where she will be cross-examined under oath to answer questions which I have prepared utilizing your input.
The mother’s attorney has the right to request discovery similar to that which we have requested.
Under the Maryland Court’s management system, deadlines when specific actions must be taken and completed are set. If the actions are not completed by the specified dates, then what was sought to be presented at trial may not be introduced at the trial. There are deadlines for discovery to be compelled, when experts are to be identified, and other important deadlines.
To establish paternity, the party alleging that you are the father must prove that you are the father in a number of ways. The easiest way to prove paternity is for the parties to either volunteer to take a DNA test or to be court-ordered to do so. When the DNA test is administered it requires the mother, father, and child to have blood drawn and tested to determine if you are the father. Unless you have a twin brother who was intimate with the mother, the laboratory that administers the test will be able to provide an opinion as to whether you are or are not the father.
You could immediately have a DNA test administered but we recommend that you obtain legal counsel and have him or her conduct an investigation and have the discovery performed before you agree to the DNA test. The lawyer needs to answer the complaint as required under the rules of court (answer the complaint within 30 days) and at that time, depending on the facts, we usually recommend not admitting paternity.
We strongly recommend that you have legal representation at an early stage and not try to act on your own. Fred Antenberg has over 35 years of legal experience handling a substantial number of family law cases including paternity defense in the courts of Howard County and surrounding counties in Maryland and in Baltimore City.
Call Fred at 410-730- 4404, for a free initial consultation.