In Oklahoma, paternal rights are greatly affected by whether or not the child was born during a marriage. We commonly hear “his name was listed as the father on the birth certificate.” Many people mistakenly assumes that this establishes paternity. While it may be evidence in a paternity action, by itself, that does not establish a legal father-child relationship. If the father and mother are unmarried, the mother is presumed under the law to have custody of the child until a court determines otherwise.
The first two years of the child’s life is an important timeline that sets the stage for what rights the State will allow a man to acknowledge or deny. Unlike the mother-child relationship which is legally established when the mother gives birth to a child, a father-child relationship is not automatically established upon the child’s birth. Under the law, father-child relationship is established with an un-rebuttable presumption of paternity, a court adjudication of paternity, or an acknowledgment of paternity (AO). A man is only presumed to be the father if the child was 1) born during the marriage, or 2) within 300 days after the marriage was terminated, or 3) if the father was living with the child during the first two years of the child’s life and openly held the child out as his own. Once the presumption of paternity is established, it will not be displaced without an adjudication of non-paternity by a court having jurisdiction in a divorce proceeding or a paternity action. Additionally, the presumption of paternity can be rebutted with a timely, validly executed and filed denial of paternity if another man has already acknowledged paternity (discussed below) and the denial occurs within two years of the child’s birth.
If there is not a presumed father, an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is the equivalent to an adjudication of paternity of a child and confers upon the acknowledged father all of the rights and duties of a parent. Once an Acknowledgment of Paternity has been executed, any challenge to the established paternity is barred after two years. Usually, An AOP is offered to the parents at the hospital upon birth of their child. The Department of Human Services prescribes forms for the acknowledgment of paternity and the denial of paternity, and those forms must be signed and filed with the State Department of Health, Division of Vital Records.
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Paternity Actions can be initiated by the mother of the child, the man who seeks to establish or deny paternity, the child, and the Department of Human Services. Genetic testing is not always utilized by the court and is actually prohibited from being used if the Court finds that the conduct of the mother and the presumed father estops the party from denying parentage or if it is in the best interest of the child not to disprove the father-child relationship between the presumed or acknowledged father.
At Mazaheri Law, we understand that the emotions tied to paternity rights are strong and immeasurably important to the families we represent. If you need to establish or deny paternity, or adjudicate parental rights, including custody and visitation, call us to discuss your case and assert your legal rights.We will focus on protecting your parental interests so that you can focus on parenting and protecting your children. We get what’s on the line. Call us today at 405-414-2222.