When a child is born outside of marriage, either parent can file a Petition for Paternity (or Parenthood) to establish the fact of parenthood, as well as parental rights and obligations. For instance, if there is an issue between a man and a woman as to who is the father of a child, either party can petition for determination of parenthood and have the man undergo a DNA test. If it proves he is the father, then custody, visitation, and child support will be determined in the same way they would be if it were a dissolution of marriage case.

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There are several presumptions in the law with respect to who should be considered the father, and there are times when the court will find that a man who has held himself out as the father, and who has “stepped up to the plate” in providing a stable family environment for the child for a significant time, will actually be found to be the father over the claims of the biological father.