Simply put, paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity gives a child a legal father. It also gives the father both rights and obligations related to helping take care of his child. It is important for the child to know who they are. By knowing both parents, a child gains a sense of identity and belonging. Both parents have the right to establish a healthy relationship with their child(ren) and a responsibility to care for their child(ren). Making the relationship legal from the beginning provides a greater opportunity for a healthy relationship and insures the father's rights to a relationship with his child. Legal fathers have all of the same parental rights and responsibilities as the mother, including the right to seek custody or parenting time.
Parents and their children should know about potentially inherited health problems. Establishing paternity provides the child a greater likelihood of having access to this information. In addition, establishing paternity is the first step in making plans to provide the financial support a child needs.
With legal paternity established, the child will have access to:
- Social Security dependent or survivor benefits
- Inheritance rights
- Veteran's benefits
- Life and health insurance benefits
How is Paternity Established?
A man is presumed to be a child's legal father if;
- He and his wife are married when the child is born, or
- If the child is born no later than 300 days after the marriage ends
In all other cases, legal paternity must be established in one of two ways;
- Paternity Affidavit, or
- Court Order
A paternity affidavit is a legal document that permits a man and a woman to declare, under penalty of perjury, that the man is the biological father of a child. A properly executed paternity affidavit establishes legal paternity (fatherhood) and parental rights and responsibilities, without the necessity of obtaining a court order. A paternity affidavit may be completed at the hospital within 72 hours of the child's birth or at your local health department any time before the child is emancipated. If paternity is established by paternity affidavit, the Department of Health will add the father's name to the child's birth certificate.
The second way paternity can be established is by an order from the court. Either parent may file an action in an appropriate Indiana court seeking determination of paternity. The county child support office may also file an action if the case is enrolled and open (not closed) in their office. After the action is filed, the court will set a hearing date and notice will be provided to both parties. At the hearing, the parties may agree to paternity without the benefit of genetic testing, request genetic testing to determine paternity, or the court may hear evidence and make a decision about whether or not paternity should be established. If genetic testing is ordered by the court, the parties will be tested and the court will hold off on deciding the issue of paternity until the genetic testing results are available to the court. Either parent or the county child support office may request genetic testing, commonly know as DNA testing.
For more information about different ways of establishing paternity and its importance to the child, please click on the following links:
- Establishing Paternity
- Establishing Paternity Brochure
- Estableciendo Paternidad
- Estableciendo Paternidad Folleto
For assistance with establishing paternity, contact the local county health department or the local county child support office. (Find your local child support office here.) A private attorney may also be able to assist in establishing paternity.
For sample Paternity Affidavit forms, click on the following links:
- Hospital Paternity Affidavit Form (to be completed by the Hospital/Birthing Center only)
- Local Health Department Paternity Affidavit Form (to be completed by the Local Health Department only)
- Paternity Affidavit Upon Marriage - State Form 48468
A legal DNA test follows a Chain of Custody documentation process to ensure you receive accurate and legally defensible results. Genetic testing must be performed by an accredited laboratory. A home paternity test would not be admissible for legal purposes.