When a child is born and the mother is married, the law presumes that the husband is the father of the child and both parents will be on the child’s birth certificate. When a child is born to a mother who is not married, the parents will need to determine how the father will establish paternity of the child. Establishing paternity of a child is legally establishing a man as the father of the child. A father who is not married to the mother of the child is considered a “putative father” until he establishes paternity of the child. Any man who believes he is or might be the father of a child should register with the Putative Father Registry to protect his rights in the event the child is placed for adoption.
Indiana allows paternity to be established in several ways. A putative father will need to decide when and how to establish paternity of the child.
A putative father may establish paternity through the execution of a Paternity Affidavit. A paternity affidavit may be executed at the hospital within 72 hours of the child’s birth, or at the local health department in the jurisdiction where the child was born any time prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday. Both the mother and the father must sign the paternity affidavit. If a paternity affidavit is properly executed, the father will be named on the birth certificate and will be legally established as the father. The paternity affidavit should be carefully reviewed prior to execution to ensure the parents understand the legal ramification of the paternity affidavit. While a paternity affidavit can establish joint legal custody if a DNA test is done within sixty (60) days, a father may still need to file with the Court to establish parenting time and other rights and obligations for the child.
A father may also file with the Court to establish paternity. The parents may stipulate that the father is the legal father of the child, or the Court may order genetic testing to determine paternity. It is not only the putative father that may file to establish paternity. The mother may file to establish paternity and may do so to obtain a child support order. The State of Indiana may also file to establish paternity of a child that is receiving state benefits. Regardless of who initiates the paternity action, the Court will address legal custody, parenting time, and child support ultimately. The Court may also address the issue of the child’s last name and payment of other child-related expenses, including the expenses for the child’s birth.
Establishing paternity is a legally significant act and comes with both rights and obligations. If you have questions about when to establish paternity, or whether you should establish paternity, contact the experienced attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff, P.C.