paternity suit

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A lawsuit to determine the identity of the father of a child, usually one born outside of marriage. A paternity suit may be brought either by the mother seeking child support, or by the father himself if the mother is denying his paternity. Such suits are usually resolved by genetic testing. For example, Florida’s Domestic Relations Code § 742.12 establishes that “[i]n any proceeding to establish paternity, the court on its own motion may require the child, mother, and alleged fathers to submit to scientific tests that are generally acceptable within the scientific community to show a probability of paternity.” Once paternity is established, the father may petition for the rights and obligations of parenthood, including the duty to support the child and the right to petition for custody or visitation.

[Last updated in April of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]