Establishing paternity is an important first step in cases where a mother or a child wants to ensure that a father is financially responsible for the child. It is also an important step in a biological father being recognized as his child's parent in order to be a part of the child's life. And sometimes it’s important even when the child is an adult.
This is true in a case that came to light recently involving a U.S. Congressman, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
Asked about the paternity test that revealed that the woman he believed was his daughter had, in fact, been fathered by another man, Cohen did not answer specifically except to say he wanted privacy for the young woman and for himself. Cohen had become close to the 24-year-old woman over the past three years after learning that he might be her father.
The existence of a relationship between the congressman and the young woman became public after he sent a message to her via Twitter during the State of the Union address, wishing her a happy Valentine's Day and telling her he loved her. It’s believed that he was trying to send the message privately, but instead sent it publicly before deleting it.
When asked about it, he revealed that he believed her to be his biological daughter before the paternity test results were known.
Genetic paternity tests can be administered using DNA taken from a blood or hair sample of both the father and the child. In cases where the child is still a minor, establishing paternity brings both the right for the father to have parenting time as well as the financial responsibility of having a child.
In cases such as this, however, where the child is already an adult, establishing paternity is no longer a matter of parenting time or child support, though it may provide the child with access to his or her paternal health history as well as certain inheritance rights.
Source: The Hill, "Rep. Cohen asks for privacy, calls paternity dispute a 'personal tragedy'," Meghashyam Mali, July 22, 2013