How do I establish paternity?

Paternity can be established in different ways depending on the circumstances of the family. If the parents are married at the time the child is born, there is a presumption that the husband is the father of the child. The circumstances are not the same if the child's parents are unmarried at the time of the child's birth. It is important to establish paternity for child custody, visitation, inheritance and other reasons such as emotional considerations.

If the parents are unmarried when the child is born but marry after the child is born, they can sign a legitimation form which carries with it the same rights as if the parents were married at the time of the child's birth. If the parents never marry, they can still establish paternity voluntarily in certain circumstances. The parents may sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and file it with the relevant state agency. A voluntary acknowledgement can be signed and filed following the child's birth or any time thereafter.

Alternately, if paternity is disputed, a paternity action can be filed by the mother or putative father of the child to establish paternity. The court will then order a DNA test to determine paternity of the child. After paternity is legally established, the biological father will then be liable for child support and may then seek child custody or visitation rights.

Determining paternity is important for legal and emotional reasons and can be important for the child and the family. Because of the importance of the establishing paternity, it is also important for parents to understand how paternity can be established and the different methods provided by the family law process.

Source:, "Chronology: Establishing Paternity," Accessed June 14, 2017

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