Paternity Establishment for Children Born Outside of Marriage
Establishing a legal father for a child ensures certain rights for the child, such as a greater sense of identity and access to paternal medical information, social security benefits, death and insurance benefits, and military benefits.
A child support order cannot be established for a child who is born to unmarried parents, unless the alleged father acknowledges paternity or is proven to be the father. Paternity can be established by voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or by court order.
The most convenient time for parents to establish paternity for their child is in the hospital when the child is born. The father must be present and provide identification to have his name placed on the Affidavit of Parentage. When this document is filed with Vital Records, both parents' names are recorded on the birth certificate.
Genetic (DNA) testing is recommended if there are doubts regarding the paternity of the child. Blood or tissue samples may be used for testing. The most common method uses tissue swabbed from the inside of the cheek. This test is highly accurate in determining the probability that a man is the father of a child. Test results may provide peace of mind to parents who establish paternity voluntarily or may be presented as evidence in legal proceedings to establish paternity.
If paternity is not established voluntarily, legal action may be filed with the courts. A formal complaint is served upon the alleged father, initiating court action. A court hearing is held, and the court may enter an order establishing paternity.
For more information and answers to your frequently asked questions, please contact your local child support office, county DSS office, or navigate through the Child Support Handbook.*