How Is It Possible That a Man Is Responsible as a Child’s Father Even When Their DNA Is Not a Match?
Usually, when a mother wants a court to determine paternity so she can collect child support, the court will order a DNA test. However, even if the DNA testing says NO, the courts can say YES! In some cases, if the man has developed a close relationship with the child signifying him as the child’s “Dad”, the court can refuse to order DNA testing or refuse to consider the evidence of a DNA test. In these cases, the courts can decide that it is in the best interest of the child to determine that the man involved is the child’s legal father, despite DNA test results. The legal principle at work here is known as “equitable estoppel” which essentially means it would be unfair to the child to raise that child who has known one man to be his father for a significant period in his life, and then substitute a different father. Further, if the “Dad” (who treated the child as his own) had been married to the child’s mother, the courts will treat this as an additional factor to find it in the best interests of the child to refuse to allow or recognize DNA testing that would identify a different father. This additional factor is called “presumption of legitimacy”. For those who are uncertain of their biological paternity, they must consider what their long term goals are with regard to their relationship with the child. They can put any doubts aside and initiate a parental relationship with the child (which is to opt for the parental relationship) or insist on DNA testing before beginning a parental relationship. Either way protects the best interest of the child, which is the courts primary concern.