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How can I establish paternity so I can seek custody of my kids?

You and your significant other decided to call it quits. You learned after the fact that she was pregnant, had the baby and failed to put you on the birth certificate. Now you have a child but have no rights to him or her. This leaves you wondering what the state of Louisiana requires you to do in order to establish paternity so that you can seek custody of your child.

Seeking paternity is more than just taking a DNA test. The courts do need to get involved so that if a DNA test comes back positive, you can get approval to seek custody and go through that whole process. So, where do you need to start?

First few steps

The paternity establishment process typically begins with a court filing. You need to inform the court and your ex that you wish to determine parentage over the child in question. After the initial court filing, there are two ways to establish paternity:

  • Volunteering parentage
  • DNA testing

If your ex agrees to your voluntarily offering to assume parentage, the court can grant you parental rights and then you may pursue a custody arrangement. If your ex declines, you'll then likely have to complete DNA testing. If this happens, both you and the child need to go to a court approved facility to have the testing completed.

DNA testing is pretty simple. It usually involves running a swab inside your mouth and the mouth of the child to collect cells. The DNA is run through a computer to figure out the genetic code and then your sample and the child's sample are compared to determine if you are indeed the father. This whole process usually takes a month -- though it may be longer.

If you are the father

If DNA testing shows that the child is biologically yours, the court will typically allow you to pursue a child custody order. This is a separate filing from the paternity establishment request. After filing for child custody, either you and your ex can work out terms through private negotiations or you can take the matter back to court. If the latter happens, a judge will get the final say.

Overall, the process of establishing paternity is fairly simple and straightforward. The problem comes in dealing with an ex who may not agree with you seeking parental rights. An experienced family law attorney would be a good resource if you wish to pursue paternity establishment and child custody. With help, you can fight to protect your rights as a father.

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