Knowing the mother of a child is as simple as looking at the birth certificate. However, it isn't always so simple with the father, especially if the father is absent from the child's life. This can sometimes cause problems for child custody and support for the mother that takes responsibility for the primary care of the child. There are a series of "tests" that the court will use to establish paternity of a child.
Not every test requires proving parentage through DNA. Sometimes the court will presume paternity, even if the father isn't the biological parent. If you are married, the husband is the presumed father of the child. This holds true even if the marriage occurs after conception, but prior to birth. If both parents are sure of paternity, then they may also sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, or similar form, to establish parentage.
These are the easy ways when both parents want the father acknowledged as a parent. However, if none of these voluntary options are available, legal action may be taken. Either the mother or sometimes, if the mother is on public assistance, the government may initiate the action, to recover child support costs. The father will be compelled to appear in court to answer the allegation that he is the father, and if he refuses, then a DNA test may be ordered. If it is positive, then the court will enter an order establishing paternity.
Once paternity is established, the child has a right to child support, inheritance, Social Security benefits and a plethora of other benefits. There are great advantages to the child for establishing paternity, but it also means that the father has custody and visitation rights to the child.
If you or a loved one needs help establishing paternity, then you may want to consult with an attorney. Unless the father accepts parentage, these actions can become complicated. Just because these may be complicated does not mean that it isn't worth it for your child. Aside from the emotional benefits, establishing paternity can confer many legal benefits to your child. These actions require careful consideration before proceeding.