FAQs – Paternity Cases

Establishing paternity is very important to a child or children. It provides many emotional benefits for the child or children and legally entitles the children to the same rights as those of a child whose parents are married.

What is Paternity?

Paternity is the legal status of fatherhood. In New Mexico, this means that a court or government agency has determined which individual is biologically the child’s father, often through paternity (DNA) testing. It can also be established voluntarily by the parents when they sign an affidavit and file it with the Department of Health. A paternity case involves minor children when the parents are not in a legally recognized marriage.

How Can I Establish Paternity in New Mexico?

You can establish paternity in a few ways in New Mexico. If your child was born during a marriage or within 300 days following divorce or widowhood, the child will be presumed to be that of the husband. If the child is conceived outside of marriage, paternity will need to be established either voluntarily or through a court order.  If the parents are not married, they can choose to voluntarily acknowledge paternity by Affidavit (called an “Acknowledgement of Paternity”) that says they agree they are each the parents of the child in question. This affidavit is filed with the Department of Health and the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate.  Parents are able to get paternity testing before signing if they are unsure of the parentage.  Either party can also file a Petition to Establish Paternity in the State District Court.  A court order establishing paternity will be issued after the court has determined paternity.  Finally, a biological father can file a paper with the “Putative Father Registry” if he had sex with a woman and believes she may have conceived a child.

What happens if I’m not sure who the father is? 

If you are unable to agree on who the father of the child is, you can file a paternity case in court. As the mother, if you are uncertain who the father may be between two or more persons, or if the alleged father denies paternity, the court may require all parties including the child, to submit to paternity testing.

What can I do if my ex-girlfriend denies me access to my child?

Fathers, as well as mothers, can file a paternity case.  If DNA testing confirms you are the biological father, then the judge can decide custody and visitation, and set child support.

Why should I establish paternity?

Not only does a child benefit from knowing and developing an emotional bond with both parents, it also helps the child succeed and find security in knowing their parents. Once paternity is established, the child has the right to inherit upon the father’s death, and the mother can receive child support to help in raising the child. As the established father, you will have rights and responsibilities towards the child including the option for child custody or visitation rights.

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