Maryland Paternity Laws Explained

If you recently had a child and your relationship to that child is being called into question, it is important to learn Maryland’s paternity laws and how you can establish your parental rights as a father.

A father can establish paternity in one of three ways in Maryland. Available methods include marital presumption, an affidavit of parentage, or a judicial declaration. If you have to go to court to confirm you are the biological father of a child, you may be subject to genetic testing. You may also have to provide additional proof of your relationship with the child’s mother and the child. Even after paternity is established, it can sometimes be disestablished. This is not an easy process and will be handled according to the best interest of the child.

To get help with your case from Rice, Murtha & Psoras, call our Maryland paternity lawyers today at (410) 694-7291.

Methods of Establishing Paternity in Maryland

There are several ways that a parent can establish paternity in Maryland, meaning they become the legal father of a child. If you are married to the child’s mother, establishing paternity is relatively simple as paternity is presumed. If the mother is unmarried, there are still ways for paternity to be established, whether through an affidavit of parentage or judicial declaration.

Martial Presumption

According to Md. Code, Est. & Tr. Art., § 1-206(a), when a child is born to a married couple, it is automatically assumed that the husband is the child’s biological father. If, for some reason, you believe you are not the legitimate father of the child born to your wife, you can refute presumed paternity in Maryland. Otherwise, you will be considered the father of your baby by law.

Affidavit of Parentage

It is common for children to be born to unmarried couples. When this happens, both parents should sign an affidavit of parentage confirming that a man is the biological father of a baby. Signing this affidavit as soon as your child is born is best. If you are still unsure of paternity after a child is born, our Maryland paternity lawyers can walk you through what the affidavit requires and what it will mean to sign it. While it is preferable to sign this affidavit immediately after your child’s birth, you can do so afterward, up until a child’s 18th birthday. If you become aware that you are not a child’s biological father after signing an affidavit of parentage, you can sign a recession form for an affidavit of parentage. This must be done within 60 days of signing the initial affidavit, according to Md. Code, Fam. Law Art., § 5-1028(d)(2). Otherwise, you will have to go to court over the matter. To get an affidavit of parentage nullified by the court, you must prove that fraud was involved, you were under duress at the time of signing, or you were presented with incorrect information that led you to believe you were the father of a child.

Judicial Declaration

Paternity can also be established through judicial declaration in Maryland. Either parent can file a petition with the court to request genetic testing to confirm that one party is the biological father of a child. This is often done when a mother requires child support. A father can also attest, under oath, that he is the biological parent of a child. The court can confirm paternity without genetic testing if the mother does not object to this declaration.

How Can You Prove Paternity in Maryland?

Proving paternity can be an emotional and challenging process, depending on the relationships between the parties involved and a biological father’s willingness to establish paternity.

If you believe you are the biological father of a child, and the child’s mother contests paternity, you can petition the court to get genetic testing to confirm your relationship to a child. Similarly, a mother can request that genetic testing be done to confirm the identity of her child’s father. A DNA test will then be performed. Depending on the test results, further evidence might be required to help establish paternity. Such evidence might include correspondence between both parties that shows one party recognizing that they are the father of a child.

Once paternity is proven in Maryland, the court will likely order that child support be paid to the mother. If you wish to have a relationship with your child, you can also seek to get partial custody or visitation after you have proven paternity.

Can You Disestablish Paternity in Maryland?

After paternity is established in Maryland, it can be disestablished. The ways in which this is accomplished vary, depending on how paternity was initially established.

If paternity was established through genetic testing, it cannot be disestablished. A father may be able to terminate his parental rights, although the court might not approve this if a mother does not have additional support.

In the event that paternity was established by martial presumption, the best interest of the child standard will apply before paternity can be disestablished. For example, suppose a presumed biological father is allegedly abusive or is absent from the child’s life. In that case, it may be in the child’s best interest to confirm whether or not he is, in fact, the child’s biological father. In these instances, genetic testing might be ordered by the court. If genetic testing proves that a presumed father is not the biological father, paternity will be disestablished.

Similarly, paternity can be disestablished if an affidavit of parentage was signed because of fraud or other matters that would make it void. Again, you will likely have to go to court to disestablish paternity. If a party signed an affidavit of marriage knowing he was not the biological father, paternity can be overturned. If a party believed he was the biological father, genetic testing alone may not be sufficient to disestablish paternity. You must prove a material mistake, fraud, or coercion to do so.

Call Our Paternity Lawyers in Maryland About Your Case

You can call our Maryland paternity lawyers at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case analysis with Rice, Murtha & Psoras today.