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The first three days of your child's life can be amazing. You will establish a bond with your baby that will last a lifetime. These are truly some of the most important moments in your child's life. During this time, your child can also be developing a relationship with his or her father. In Indiana, the law allows you to establish paternity within the first 72 hours (three days) after the birth of your child. This can be accomplished when both parents sign a paternity affidavit provided by the State Department of Health. If you and the father of your child are not married, you should both seriously consider establishing paternity for your child immediately. This is the easiest way available to establish this important legal relationship between your child and his or her father. These three days can make a difference for your child's entire life.
What is paternity?
Paternity is the relationship between a father and his child. Establishing paternity is the process of making this a legal relationship.
Why is establishing paternity important?
There are many reasons to establish paternity. Doing so can provide benefits to the parents as well as the child, and it is a good way to get the relationship with your child off to a good start. Some of the benefits of establishing paternity are:
IDENTITY: It is important to know who we are. Your child will benefit from a sense of belonging that comes from knowing both parents.
BIRTH CERTIFICATE: By law, if you sign the paternity affidavit, the father's name will be listed on the child's birth certificate.
FINANCIAL: The law requires that both parents support their child. Establishing paternity is the first step in making plans, which can be monitored by the courts, to provide the financial support that your child will need in a way that is fair to both parents. Even if the father is unable or unwilling to pay support, establishing paternity makes it possible to collect support from him at a later date through tax interception, lottery interception, and wage withholding.
BENEFITS: Your child has the right to other possible benefits from both parents. Many of these benefits may be denied to your child if legal paternity is not established. Some of these benefits may include:
MEDICAL: A child needs to know if he or she has inherited or may have inherited any special health problems from either side of the family. Also, it might be possible to obtain medical insurance through a parent's employer, union, or military service.
RELATIONSHIPS: Both parents have a right to establish a healthy relationship with, and the responsibility to care for, their son or daughter. Making the relationship legal from the beginning provides a greater opportunity for this to take place.
How is legal paternity established?
If you are married when the child is born, your husband is considered by law to be the father. If you have been divorced or widowed for less than 10 months, your husband at the time of conception is considered by law to be the father.
If you are married at the time of birth or were married at the time of conception, but in a dissolution of marriage action, your husband contends he is not the natural father of the child, the court will require a genetic test be conducted to determine if he is or is not the natural father of the child.
If you are not married at the time of the birth of the child, and were not married at the time of conception, paternity can be established in these ways:
ADMINISTRATIVE AFFIDAVITS: Effective July 1, 1997, paternity can be established by completing the required paternity affidavit form at the local health department. This process is available until your child reaches 20 years of age. A properly executed paternity affidavit establishes legal paternity and parental rights and responsibilities. The affidavit may be set aside by filing a court action within 60 days of the signing of the affidavit without good cause. The affidavit may not be set aside after the 60 day period except for the good cause reasons provided by law and found to exist by a court.
COURT DETERMINATION: Paternity may be established by filing a paternity action in court. The parties may agree to the paternity or request a genetic test and hearing.
Why do I need to think about this now?
What if I am not sure?
There are times when establishing paternity in the hospital may not be the right thing to do. Even if you have someone with you willing to take on the responsibility of being a father to your child, it is still important to establish who the biological father is for medical reasons. If you are unsure about the paternity of your child, you may want to contact your local Prosecutor's Office and ask for assistance in establishing paternity. They will be able to guide you through the legal process, and will be able to help you arrange the necessary tests that will determine the paternity of your child. They can also establish and enforce a support order. You do not need to be on Public Assistance to receive help from the Prosecutor's Office in establishing paternity, or a support order. However, there will be a small fee for these services.
At times it can be awkward to discuss the paternity of your child. All conversations and correspondence related to the paternity of your child, and the process to establish paternity will be treated as strictly confidential.
Is this required by law?
There is no law that requires you to sign the paternity affidavit. However, if you are receiving or plan to receive public assistance, you may be required to cooperate in establishing paternity, and obtaining a support order. Also, the presumed father has the right to request a hearing if he is not sure that he is the father of your child. In other words, you are not required to sign this affidavit. However, if you receive public assistance or if the father initiates legal action, you may be required by law to participate in establishing paternity in the future.