Establishing Paternity in Court

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Are Some Ways to Establish Paternity?

Paternity for fatherhood can be established in either way mentioned below:

  • Signing an Affidavit of Parentage: This is a legal document signed by the man claiming to be a father. Once this affidavit is finalized, the father can file for custody, child support, and parenting time or;
  • By filing a Paternity Case: The mother, father, or the state can file for a paternity case. They can request the court to declare the legal father. A DNA test can also be utilized to announce the father. A Paternity Case can decide custody, child support, and parenting time.

To further elaborate on filing a paternity case, certain documents must be submitted for the case, and certain fees must be paid along with the paperwork. You must fulfill all the formalities of filing a legal case, including serving the parties and other court procedures. In a Paternity Case, either the man can agree that he is the legal father, or DNA test results will be utilized.

Furthermore, child support will be decided in a paternity case. Moreover, a mother has the legal right to request child support through the Office of Child Support. If the state does not find the legal father, they initiate a Paternity Case. The prosecutor files the case on behalf of the mother to obtain a child support order from the court. In many cases, paternity helps to secure financial means for the child. Without some financial assistance from the father or the state, mothers struggle to fulfill all the financial obligations needed for their children.

All states have a system in place for paternity cases. Paternity is important to establish to receive child support and visitation rights. For instance, in D.C., the Superior Court will hold a hearing, which both parents must attend. During this hearing, the man claiming to be a father can speak and demonstrate if they are the legal parent.

Furthermore, DNA or Genetic Testing is often involved in obtaining proof of fatherhood. The DNA results obtained from it will reveal the truth. If a man claims he is not the father, then genetic testing can help determine the truth. If the test proves he is the child’s father, the court will issue an order establishing the child’s paternity. This order is considered legal proof establishing your child’s parentage. If the parent wants to contest an order of parentage, they must file a motion with the court to overturn it.

What are Paternity Orders?

After the paternity case is filed with the court, the investigation begins to find the legal father. However, if the mother and the man agree with him being the father, this is considered paternity by consent. The man has a specific period to respond once the case is filed. If the man fails to respond promptly, then he will be deemed the father as default. Moreover, DNA testing can be ordered by the court as needed to establish the identity of the legal father.

The court order determining paternity is called an Order of Filiation or Order of Paternity. As with every case involved, there will be filing fees. Each state varies on this, and it is important to look up your local state fees on their government websites.

For instance, the court filing fees for a paternity case filed by the mother are currently $255 in Michigan. But, there are no filing fees when a man who claims he is the father of a child files a paternity case or when the prosecutor brings a paternity case. There are fees for genetic testing as well. Remember that the court fees can be waived; you must apply. The court will make a decision based on your income and determine what you would be eligible for.

Why Establishing a Parentage Is Important?

There are several reasons why you should establish paternity for your child. Below are some examples of the benefits that entail parentage:

  • Having a strong relationship between a parent and child is unmatched;
  • There are legal and financial obligations that the parent must fulfill;
  • Children that have strong parental models in their life become more responsible adults;
  • Social Security benefits for the children
  • If you want your name on the child’s birth certificate, then you must establish paternity;
  • Your child may be eligible for the parent’s life insurance benefits;
  • Your child may share a right to inherit property from their parent’s estate and;
  • Your child may qualify for medical coverage and life insurance benefits if their parent is employed or has previously been employed by the military.

When Is a Paternity Test Required?

There are situations in which a paternity test will be mandatory. If the father wants access to the child, they must establish paternity before applying for visitation rights. If the mother is unsure about the father’s identity, the court will order a DNA test for proof of parentage. Most paternity test results are available 4-6 weeks after a swab. After the paternity test results are returned from the lab, the court can finalize your paternity order. Once the legal father is established, custody, child support, and visitation can be arranged.

Who Can Initiate the Paternity Case?

There are only certain individuals that can initiate a paternity case:

  • The child’s mother;
  • A man who claims he is the father;
  • The child or child’s guardian and;
  • The Department of Social Services if the child receives public assistance.

There are some general steps for filing a paternity case. Keep in mind that the majority of the procedures are similar across the state. But just be aware of time limits and fees. A paternity petition can be filed in the Family Court in the county where the Petitioner or Respondent resides. For instance, If you are the mother or a man who believes he is the father residing in New York, you can file through the free and easy Paternity Petition DIY Form program to request the Family Court for an Order of Filiation naming the child’s legal father.

But, if you are not the child’s parents, you can utilize this form to begin your paternity case. As mentioned earlier, the other party will be notified once the case is filed. The court will review it, and the judge will decide what needs to be the next step in the case. Seeking a legal professional in the field may be useful to understand the next steps in the case better.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

Establishing paternity allows fathers to gain access to their children. If you need legal advice on how to proceed with a paternity case, do not hesitate to reach out to a local paternity lawyer to assist you. Initiating a paternity case can be complicated, and having help along the way will be useful. The DNA results provide proof of paternity for these sorts of cases. If you need help ordering one, seek advice from a legal professional.

Paternity can be a complex and multi-layered subject, and may involve many different family law concepts. An experienced lawyer can research the laws to inform you of what your rights and options are with regard to paternity.

Law Library Disclaimer


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer