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Is paternity a major issue in your divorce?

When you married, you assumed it was for a lifetime. After more than a decade went by, you recognized that this was not to be. When you filed for divorce, the main issues you worried about were those having to do with your children. Like most good fathers in Louisiana, you want what is best for them. You believe that, in connection to your divorce, that would include them living with you.  

You wonder if it's possible to obtain custody as a father. Someone told you the first thing you'll need to do is take a paternity test. You're not sure if that's true and feel a bit out of your league, trying to figure out a best course of action because you're not all that familiar with Louisiana state laws concerning such matters. This post may help clarify some paternity issues; beyond that, it's a good idea to make sure you understand your rights and know where to seek experienced guidance

What marriage has to do with it 

A key factor to understand about paternity as it relates to custody litigation in divorce is that the court assumes you are the biological father of all children born to your wife during your marriage. The following list includes additional facts regarding paternity and custody for fathers: 

  • It is not necessarily true that you will have to take a paternity test to petition the court for custody of your children. In fact, it is likely that you will not have to take one since you were in a marriage to their mother when they were born.
  • If a causal factor in your divorce is marital infidelity on your spouse's part and she then claims to be unsure if you are the biological father of one or more of your children, that's a different story. You may indeed have to establish paternity before gaining custody of your kids.
  • It's possible that a man your spouse names as the biological father would want to take a paternity test to prove he is not the father of your children as well; you may still have to take a similar test in such circumstances, since establishing that one man is not the father does not establish that another man is.
  • Once you establish paternity, either by the court's assumption or through DNA testing, you inherit all obligations and responsibilities of fatherhood, as well as all rights and privileges under the law, which includes the ability to sue for custody in divorce.
  • As parents in Louisiana, fathers and mothers have the same rights.
  • If you and your soon-to-be former spouse cannot agree on a co-parenting plan, you may seek the court's intervention. 

Gone are the days when the court automatically assumes children are better off living with their mothers. The face of family life has changed over time. There are many fathers in the U.S. who have full custody of their children. Just because you are getting divorced doesn't mean you wish to abdicate your responsibilities as a parent.  

Support is available 

There is often a stigma against fathers who file for divorce. The fact that you no longer want to be in a marriage to your children's other parent doesn't mean you are abandoning your family. Speaking to other dads who have gone through similar situations may help as well as discussing your custody issues with someone well-versed in the custody laws of this state.

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