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Paternity Leave: You Have Only Two Years to Contest Claimed Fatherhood

Wild oats can continue to grow long after they are sown. Take, for example, Spanish singing star Julio Iglesias, who allegedly had a highly productive fling with a Portuguese dancer in 1975, and has not escaped a Spanish judge's recent paternity ruling just because he refused a paternity test. The singer reportedly told his erstwhile sex partner that he wanted no part of what they had wrought, and he clearly thought he had outsmarted the system. The judge said lack of biological proof wasn't a problem: The alleged son looks remarkable like Iglesias.

Iglesias faced judgment in Spain, but had the case been brought in California, the outcome would likely be no different. Claims to contest paternity are generally time-bound. In California, you have just two years from the birth of the child to argue that you aren't the biological father. If you miss that window, guess what? You're now legally on the hook for that child.

In many states, including California, there is no statute of limitations for establishing paternity. That means that your biological offspring -- like Igelsias' -- could assert claims years or even decades after your one-night stand. Your obligation to support could very well be limited, depending on your state of residence, but you also could be on the hook for a substantial amount of back support.

Don't think that refusal to take a paternity test will protect you. If someone has named you as the father of her child, you must act without delay. That means consulting with a reputable family lawyer who will advise you how to respond.

Suppose you believe a child is your offspring and want to establish your right to parent the child? That situation can be complex. That child may already have a "presumed father," which can be the husband of the child's mother, an acknowledged father, a man who has taken responsibility for the child, or an "adjudicated father," a man who has been legally determined to be child's the father. You'll want good counsel if you're hoping to unravel what's already been settled.

Paternity laws are designed to bring stability into a child's life. Whether you want to clear up any confusion about fatherhood or become an established presence in your child's life, waiting too long to act will likely result in an undesirable outcome.

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