New Indiana parents have a great deal of responsibilities. One of these responsibilities includes legally establishing paternity for a child. There are several benefits to having paternity formally established. It is a requirement before applying for child support and for fathers who wish to have legal rights or custody time with their child.
A child will also benefit from having paternity established. Many rights and benefits cannot be obtained from a child’s biological father unless there is a formal establishment of paternity through a court.
The presumption of paternity
When the parents are married, paternity may be legally presumed, but in other cases a legal process must be followed. A child is automatically presumed to be the child’s father if he is married to the child’s mother when the child is born, or if the child is born no more than 300 days after the end of the marriage.
If a child’s parents are unmarried, paternity can be established through what is known as a paternity affidavit. If there is no question about the identity of a child’s biological father, the parents can sign a legal document swearing that the man is the biological father of the child. A paternity affidavit allows paternity to be instituted without a court order.
Paternity establishment through the court
The situation becomes more complicated if a presumed father will not sign a paternity affidavit or if there is uncertainty surrounding the identity of the biological father. In those cases, either parent may file a petition with the court asking for a declaration of paternity.
Once the petition is filed, a hearing date will be set. If both parents appear at the hearing and agree that both are the child’s biological parents, paternity will be legally established at the hearing. If there is no agreement, the court may order genetic testing to decide if the man is the child’s biological father.
If genetic testing is ordered, the court will decide paternity when the results are back. A third option is for the court to hear testimony and evidence from the parents without genetic testing and use that to make their decision.
When a question of paternity arises, it is important to have a trusted legal advisor. A child can miss out on many advantages and opportunities without the benefit of a legal father.