When parentage is contested

If the people involved in a parentage case don't agree about who a child's parent is, or if they don't know who a child's parent is, then the court makes a decision based on a number of factors, which may include genetic testing.

Ask the judge to order genetic testing

If you aren't sure who the biological parent is, you can ask the court to order genetic testing for the possible father, mother, and child.

The court will not usually order genetic testing unless one of the parents asks for it, and they will not accept the results of a private or home test. You must get the genetic testing done through a court order.

If one of the parents is deceased, a biological relationship between the possible parent and child can still be established by testing certain relatives, the mother, and the child. Talk with your Self-Help Center or a lawyer if you need genetic testing to establish parentage when a parent is deceased.

How to ask the court to order genetic testing

To ask the court to order genetic testing, you can:

How court-ordered genetic testing is done

When the court orders genetic tests, they can tell you and the other person where to get the test done and decide how the cost will be divided. The court will also set a date for the parties to come to court after the testing so the judge can review the results.

The parties are responsible for the cost of the testing, which can cost $500 or more. If the local child support agency is involved in your case, the agency can pay for the cost if one of the parties asks for testing.

A court-ordered test usually involves each person going to a testing site to do a saliva or cheek (buccal) swab. The results will be sent to the court once all the people have done the test.

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If a person refuses to take a court-ordered test, the court can establish that they are the parent without needing other proof.

Ask for a trial

If genetic testing does not answer who the child's other legal parent is, then you can ask for a trial.

There are many laws that a judge must use to determine who a child's legal parent is. You will need to understand what these laws are so you know what type of evidence you will need and what legal arguments you will need to make to show why you or the other person is or is not the legal parent.

Each court has its own process for how you need to set a case for trial. When you get the trial date, the court may set other court dates and give you other tasks to complete, like a trial brief.

Talk to your Self-Help Center or a lawyer to learn more about how to ask for and prepare for a trial.

If one of you is not the legal parent

If you find after genetic testing or a trial that one of you is not the child's legal parent, then you can finish the case. You will need to complete final paperwork (a judgment), submit it to the judge to sign. The judgment will say that the person is not the child's legal parent.

How to finish your case after testing or a trial

If you are both the legal parents

If genetic testing or a trial establishes that someone is the child's legal parent, they have the rights and responsibilities of a parent.

  • They can ask for custody and visitation (parenting time).

  • They will also be responsible for financially supporting the child. They can pay child support (and they can ask for it).
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