If a child is born and the baby's legal father is unknown or called into question, a paternity test is often warranted. A paternity test is often necessary to establish child support, legal custody, and visitation rights. Here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions you might have about paternity tests and paternity suits.

Under What Circumstances Will I Need a Paternity Test?

There are several circumstances where either the mother or the potential or suspected father of the newborn will ask for a paternity test. For example, the mother may request a paternity test if she believes a man is the father and wants to seek child support. Conversely, the father may dispute his paternity and ask for a paternity test to prove he is not the biological father.

Paternity is established through either a blood test or swabs of the inner cheek of both the newborn and the suspected father. The DNA is analyzed in a lab, and if the infant and father share DNA material, paternity is legally established.

What Should I Do If the Father is Unwilling to Submit to a Paternity Test?

Unfortunately, there are times when a father is unwilling to participate in a paternity test. In such cases, a new mother can ask the court system to file a suit compelling the suspected father to take a paternity test. If the alleged father still refuses, he can be held in contempt of court.

Depending on the state where the father resides, refusing to take a court-ordered paternity can result in a severe fine and even jail time.

Is a Paternity Test's Results Ever Contested?

Sometimes the father will contact an attorney and contest the results of a positive or negative paternity test. For example, the suspected father can call into question the lab that processed the sample, which can lead to the need for a second paternity test. This sometimes occurs if the suspected father does not want to pay child support.

The father may also contest a negative paternity test, especially if he is asking for custody.

Should I Hire a Family Lawyer?

If you are a mother or a father and there is a chance a paternity test will be ordered, it is critical to hire an attorney. An attorney can help protect your interests and ensure that the paternity test is taken and that the legal rights of both the mother and father are understood.

Paternity tests can be confusing, so if you have any more questions, don't hesitate to contact a family attorney right away.