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When should you take steps to determine paternity?

If you are together with the mother of your child but are not positive that the child is yours biologically, it's a good idea to ask for a paternity test. If you are separating, or even if you aren't, this test can give you the information you need to make decisions about your future and the child's.

In some cases, it's necessary to obtain a DNA test to prove if you do or do not need to pay child support. If you aren't married, you could be asked to pay support if you're assumed to be the father of the child. However, if you can prove that you are not the child's parent through DNA testing, then you may not need to pay support unless you've voluntarily assumed parental rights and intend to keep them.

When you establish paternity, you also guarantee or potentially take away your right to child custody. If the child is your biological son or daughter, you'll have an automatic right to seek custody. If not, you may still be able to seek custody in some situations, like if you've raised the child as your own for a long period of time.

Your attorney can talk to you more about your options if you're not the biological parent but are already investing in the child's life or an integral part of their life. Our site has more on the importance of establishing paternity in your custody case. With the right help, you can be sure that you're the biological parent of your child and are responsible for their care.

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