When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the father is not legally recognized as the child’s father until paternity is established. One way to establish paternity is for the unmarried parents to execute a paternity affidavit. Executing a paternity affidavit has significant legal implications, so it is important that both parents understand the legal implications of executing a paternity affidavit.
Executing a paternity affidavit conclusively establishes a man as the legal father of a child, without the need of any further proceedings by a Court. Execution of a paternity affidavit is equivalent to a paternity determination by the Court. Upon execution of a paternity affidavit, the father will be listed on the child’s birth certificate and the father will have certain rights and obligations. The mother has the right to obtain child support from the father once the affidavit is executed, and the father has the right to parenting time in accordance with the parenting time guidelines. Indiana now requires a parent who has executed a paternity affidavit to provide notice to the Court when they intend to relocate, even if a paternity action has not been initiated with the Court.
It is important to note that even when a paternity affidavit is executed, the mother has sole legal and physical custody of the child until there is a Court Order otherwise. The parents may agree to joint legal custody, and a DNA test must be completed within sixty (60) days for the parents to share joint legal custody.
A paternity affidavit may be executed in the hospital for seventy-two (72) hours after the birth of the child and filed with the local health department within five (5) days of the child’s birth. Otherwise, a paternity affidavit may be executed in the local health department by both parents until the child’s legal emancipation. Indiana statutes require that immediately before or after the birth of a child who is born to unmarried parents, a person attending the birth shall provide an opportunity for the child’s mother and a man who reasonably appears to be the child’s biological father to execute an affidavit acknowledging paternity of the child. This means that unmarried mothers will need to decide whether to execute a paternity affidavit shortly after their child is born.
Public policy favors finality in establishing paternity. There are limited circumstances in which paternity can be disestablished in an individual. An individual who executes a paternity affidavit may file with the Court for a DNA test within sixty (60) days of execution of the affidavit. If the DNA test proves the man who executed the paternity affidavit is not the father of the child, paternity may be disestablished. Otherwise, a paternity affidavit may only be rescinded later than sixty (60) days after execution of the affidavit upon a court finding that there was fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact in the execution of the paternity affidavit and a DNA test proves he is not the father. Proof that a man is not the child’s biological father is not enough to disestablish paternity without evidence of fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact.
Executing a paternity affidavit has lifelong implications. Both the mother and the father should understand the legal implications of executing a paternity affidavit prior to the birth of their child. The experienced attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff, P.C. can answer your questions about the implications of executing a paternity affidavit.