Can I get in trouble if the court order for paternity test did not get mailed to my current address?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, "What happens if I missed my paternity testing hearing because the notice was sent to an old address?"

What happens at the paternity court hearing?

Although state laws may vary, generally, if the mother of a child is unmarried when the child is born, paternity can be established through a court proceeding or if both parents sign an Affidavit of Parentage. Assuming you did not sign an Affidavit of Parentage, the state will schedule a paternity hearing.

If a paternity hearing has been scheduled you are required to attend the meeting and present information for the case which will be reviewed and verified.

If you admit you are the father the judge will enter his decision and will determine custody and support orders. If you agree you could be the father but want genetic testing done, you can have this done and have a new court date scheduled. You can also deny you are the father and genetic testing can be ordered. If the court believes more than one man could be the father they will order all parties to be tested. In many states the genetic testing is mandatory and done prior to the hearing.

What if you missed your paternity hearing?

It sounds like you missed your paternity hearing because you did not receive the notice it had been scheduled. The paternity hearing allows for the court to determine the identity of the father. If you failed to appear at the hearing but the court had evidence (a DNA test) that proved you were the father, the court most likely concluded you were the father.

If you did not show up and there was no paternity test, the court may have determined you were the father because you did not show up to present any evidence to the contrary. In this case the judge may rule against you because you did not show up and object.

If this happened the next step is for you to go to the clerk's office and request a copy of the file. You can also get a copy of the paternity test if one has been done. If the judge determined you were the father, you can expect a child support hearing to be scheduled. Make sure the court has your new address.

Can I appeal the hearing decision?

If you missed the hearing it may be possible to appeal the judge's decision, especially if you have a paternity test which proves you are not the father. If a paternity test has not been done you can file a petition with the court to have one done. Your petition should also outline why you missed the hearing, why you are appealing the decision, and why you are not the father.

So what's the worst that can happen to you if you do not show up at the hearing?

  • The court may issue a warrant for your arrest
  • The court may find you to be the father without your participation in the proceeding.

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