Is it Your Baby?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services – childbearing by unmarried women has resumed a steep climb since 2002. Births to unmarried women totaled 1,714,643 in 2007, 26% more than in 2002. Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. births were to unmarried women in 2007.

Birth rates have risen considerably for unmarried women in their twenties and over, while declining or changing little for unmarried teenagers. Nonmarital birth rates are highest for Hispanic women followed by black women. Rates for non-Hispanic white and Asian or Pacific Islander women are much lower.

Most births to teenagers (86% in 2007) are nonmarital, but 60% of births to women 20–24 and nearly one-third of births to women 25–29 were nonmarital in 2007. Teenagers accounted for just 23% of nonmarital births in 2007, down steeply from 50% in 1970.

If there are unmarried mothers, there are unmarried fathers, so in 1971, New Hampshire adopted the Uniform Act on Paternity. The Act is designed to identify fathers of children born of unwed parents in order to make them financially liable to the same extent as the father of a child born in wedlock. A child born of unwed parents includes a child born to a married woman and an unmarried man. No paternity proceeding can be started unless it is started within eighteen years of the birth of the child.

If a pregnant woman brings a petition to establish paternity, the proceedings are stayed until the child is actually born. A statute provides that where paternity is contested, blood tests can be ordered. There are occasions when couples divorce and the court orders blood tests. Nevertheless, in one case where a married couple raised four children as their own for fifteen years and then divorced, the court would not order blood tests, the purpose of which could have bastardized two of the four children.

The reason – the court held that it was against public policy to bastardize these children given the prior lengthy, voluntary acceptance of parental responsibilities. Watt v. Watt, 115 N.H. 186 (1975), There is a presumption that children conceived or born during a lawful marriage are legitimate.

But as in the case with most presumptions, the presumption can be overcome with evidence from paternity testing. Incidentally, paternity testing can result in devastating evidence. The results frequently show that there is a 99.9% probability of the blood donor being the father. I’ve always wondered about the person who might be in the .1%. Who is he and where does he live?