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In wedlock, out of wedlock: the challenges of establishing paternity of a married woman’s child, P.3

We’ve been looking in recent posts at the issue of establishing paternity, and the difficulties that are typically faced by fathers of children born to a woman married to another man. As we noted, establishing paternity is one hurdle these men have to face. The presumption of fatherhood for the married woman’s husband and the uncertainties of paternity testing itself are only the first hurdle, though.

If a man succeeds in proving his paternity of a child born to a married woman, the next hurdle is establishing parental rights. Despite the deep emotional connections that blood can forge between a man and his child, biology alone is not enough to move a court to make significant changes in custody arrangements. 

Simply because a man is the biological father of a child does not automatically mean he is legally entitled to custody or visitation. This is because child custody decisions are always made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child. A child in the scenario we’ve been discussing may have already bonded with the mother’s husband by the time the biological father becomes involved in the courts. Unless the biological father had been able to establish an ongoing relationship with the child—which is often something not allowed by the mother—or the woman’s husband somehow was found to be deficient in caring for the child, it is often difficult for the biological father to obtain parental rights.

All of this is, of course, why some advocate for change in the law to make it easier for biological fathers to establish paternity. If a man were able to quickly establish paternity at the outset, the possibility of obtaining parental rights could be increased for biological fathers. As it is, there are considerable legal challenges to overcome for these men, and it is critical for them to work with an experienced attorney to build the strongest possible case, and as soon as possible.

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