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Kevin O'Flaherty

In Iowa, when a married couple has a child, the husband is automatically presumed the father. His name will be placed on the birth certificate and no additional information is necessary. Even if the husband is not the father, her husband would be the legal father and could be liable for child support should the couple separate. In Iowa, there are no automatic protections in place for fathers of children born out of wedlock. There are a number of steps unwed partners need to take for the father to have legal rights to the child. 

In this article, we discuss how to establish and refute paternity in Iowa. We cover the following questions:

  • What if I believe I am not the child’s father? 
  • What happens when you have proven you aren’t the father? 

An unwed father in Iowa can establish paternity in one of three ways. First is marriage. The simplest way to establish paternity is to get married before the child is born. Second is a Paternity Order. This document is filed when the mother of the child isn’t receiving physical or financial support from the alleged father. In this instance, the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit will then issue an order for DNA testing from the child as well as the parents. Finally, there is a Paternity Affidavit. This is a sworn statement where both parents agree that the father listed on the document is the child’s biological father. The father’s name is added to the birth certificate and the father accepts responsibility for any and all financial support of the child. 


What if I believe I am not the child’s father? 


If you are the established father but later believe you aren’t the father, there is a process in place to remove your obligations to the child. This process is called “disestablishing paternity.” Paternity can be reviewed in one of three different ways.  


First, if the legal father files a request for genetic testing from the Child Support Recovery Unit (CRSU). In this instance, the CRSU will ask the court to order a paternity test. If the test shows the man is not the father (the court uses a 95% probability standard), then the CRSU will stop the process of attempting to collect child support. 


Second, if a parent files for divorce, the court will decide custody and child support issues. During these proceedings, the court can disestablish the paternity of the husband. If the husband and wife agree in writing that the husband is not the father, then the father will be disestablished. Additionally, if the husband requests the court look at paternity, the court may inquire into it. In either circumstance, genetic testing will likely take place as required by the court. If the husband doesn’t ask the court to look at paternity during the divorce proceeding, support can get ordered against the husband despite the child not being theirs.  


The final way to disestablish paternity is if a parent files a case in court. To file this action in Iowa, the child needs to be under 18, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the child, a DNA test either shouldn’t have already been done or show the legal father is not the biological father and finally the original paternity determination must have been made in Iowa or the paternity order from another state must have been registered in Iowa. If paternity was previously established by affidavit, the court must find that the affidavit was based on fraud, duress or mistake. 


What happens when you have proven you aren’t the father? 


If you disestablish paternity, any unpaid support at that point is considered satisfied and paid in full. Any future obligation is cleared and no longer owed. The question then arises as to whether you can recover for the support you have previously paid. Unfortunately, the money paid cannot be recovered in Iowa. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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