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A Paternity Suit: When A Man Says It's Not His

Paternity usually is determined either by assumption (i.e. if the mother is married, the husband is the assumed father) or through a voluntary declaration by the father at birth, according to FindLaw. But it's not always so clear and fathers don't always accept the responsibility of paternity.

Thankfully the court system and advances in genetic testing provide effective avenues for mothers whose "baby daddies" try to duck responsibility. It's called a paternity suit.

Mothers wishing to collect child support and otherwise hold the baby's father accountable would want to first schedule a meeting with a Georgia family law attorney, who might suggest she file a paternity action in civil court. Since DNA testing is at least 99 percent accurate, the standard of proof that the man must be more likely than not to be the father leaves virtually no shadow of a doubt.

But sometimes the father wants to establish paternity, whether he is seeking custody of the child or wants to visit a child born out of wedlock, according to a paternity FAQ section on the web site of the Fulton County Superior Court's Family Division in Atlanta.

Most health insurance companies do not cover the cost of a paternity test, which varies by clinic. But as long as the test is taken in a laboratory that is nationally accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks, the College of American Pathologists or has a state license, the evidence will stand in court.

The FAQ lists three labs in Atlanta that are fully accredited for legal paternity tests, the American Red Cross, DNA Diagnostics Center and Walk-In-Lab Test Inc. Results most often are available in eight to 10 working days after submitting samples.

Once established through testing, the legally recognized father may be ordered to pay child support; but in most cases, fathers whose paternity is established by the courts may not seek custody of the child.

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