"However precise the results offered by paternity testers, the truth was recognized by societies that flourished long before they appeared: that fatherhood means more than genes alone." -- Steve Jones
What Is A “Paternity Action”?
When most people hear the word “paternity”, their minds immediately jump to conducting genetic testing to identify the biological father of an individual. The logical assumption, for there, is usually that a “paternity action” is a legal action to compel genetic testing. Such is, however, emphatically not the case.
A paternity action is a kind of lawsuit which may be brought on behalf of a child to identify that child’s legal father. Legal fatherhood grants a man the rights and privileges associated with being the father of the child, as well as the responsibilities and obligations associated with the same. For practical purposes, it entitles the legal father to custody orders and, if applicable, a child support obligation. There are several ways of establishing the legal fatherhood of an individual, including genetic testing, and the court is empowered to order such be carried out if necessary, with the costs of the testing assessed against one or more parties to the litigation. In many cases, however, establishment of legal fatherhood is not contested, with the alleged father admitting to his paternity of the child or, in fact, bringing the paternity action himself and actively seeking recognition as the legal father.
Paternity Papers: The Anatomy of a Paternity Proceeding
Paternity proceedings are begun by one party -- usually the one seeking parenting time -- filing a Petition, a document which contains a recitation of what the Petitioner desires and the facts that the Petitioner feels entitle him or her to the relief sought. The typical Petition for Paternity alleges that one or more individuals – including, potentially, the Petitioner -- is the legal father of one or more children and requesting that the court recognize one particular individual as the child(ren)’s legal father, make orders regarding the custody of those same child(ren), and order the appropriate party to pay a sum of child support. After the Petition has been filed, a copy must be given to the non-filing parties – usually referred to as the Respondent(s) – in a manner prescribed by K.S.A. 60-303. This process is referred to as “serving” a Respondent. Usually, this means having the Sheriff of the county in which a Respondent resides personally handing the Petition to the Respondent.
Once the Respondent has been properly served, he or she will have a fixed amount of time to file an Answer, a document which admits or denies the various allegations in the Petition. For Respondents that reside in the State of Kansas, that period is twenty-one (21) days. For those that reside out-of-state, that period is thirty (30). If the Answer admits to all of the allegations of the Petition, then paternity will be established and a Journal Entry ordering such will be issued. If the Respondent does not file an Answer, he or she may be held in default, and judgment could be awarded which grants the Petitioner all of what was plead for, even though the Respondent disagreed with some or all of it.
If an Answer is filed and it denies some or all of the allegations in the Petition, the matter will proceed to trial. At trial, each party is given the opportunity to call witnesses and put on evidence in support of their positions. Each party is also given an opportunity to cross-examine and rebut evidence put on by the opposing party. At the conclusion of the trial, the court considers the evidence put before it and makes a ruling to resolve each disputed issue before it.