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How to Establish Paternity in Indiana

by | Dec 6, 2023 | Family Law | 0 comments

When a woman gives birth to a child, her maternity is indisputable. But it is not as straightforward for fathers. Therefore, unmarried men may have to establish paternity to prove they are a child’s biological father.   

Establishing paternity is straightforward in Indiana under some circumstances, such as if the parents were legally married when the child was born, or the child was born no more than 300 days after they broke up.  However, if the parents were not legally married then there are only two ways in which paternity can be established in Indiana: (1) the parents execute a paternity affidavit, or (2) a court establishes paternity with or without genetic testing. 

Why Is it Important to Establish Paternity? 

In Indiana, unless a father has established paternity or there is a protective order or other intervention, the mother has the right to sole legal and physical custody of the child. Establishing paternity in Indiana determines the legal rights and responsibilities of both parents and privileges for a child, such as inheritance, other benefits, and access to the father’s health history.

These are some of the situations in which a father or mother might seek to establish paternity: 

  • The mother wants child support or help providing for the child’s basic needs or to offset the expenses of raising a child. 
  • The father wants custody, visitation rights, or to create and/or maintain a relationship with the child. 
  • The father wants the right to make decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and/or religious affiliation or training. This is referred to as legal custody. 

How to Establish Paternity in Indiana

Paternity Affidavit

If parents who aren’t married when the child is born want to establish paternity, they need to execute a paternity affidavit. A paternity affidavit is a legal document in which both parties acknowledge that the man is the biological father. 

Hospitals and local health departments can provide paternity affidavits. If the paternity affidavit is executed through a hospital, the paternity affidavit must be completed not more than 72 hours after the child’s birth. If the paternity affidavit is executed through a local health department, the paternity affidavit must be completed before the child has reached the age of emancipation. Once the man and woman execute the affidavit, the mother can’t rescind it. The father can request an order for a genetic test within 60 days after the paternity affidavit is executed.  A paternity affidavit that is properly executed may not be rescinded more than 60 days after the paternity affidavit is executed unless a court determines that fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact existed in the execution of the affidavit and the man has ordered a genetic test and the test concludes the man is excluded as the father.  

Court Order

establish paternityEither parent or their child can file a petition to establish paternity. If the mother files for public assistance, a local prosecutor’s office can file a paternity action. Once the judge receives the petition, the court will schedule a hearing at which time either party may request genetic testing to confirm paternity.     

Genetic Testing

If the man or woman disputes the father’s paternity, either parent, the court, or the county child support office can request DNA testing. The Indiana State Department of Health administers  DNA tests at regional health departments or other authorized testing sites to establish paternity. The administering agency gathers DNA samples from the child, mother, and potential father by swabbing each person’s mouth. It then sends the samples to a laboratory for analysis.  

What Happens Once Paternity Is Established?

Once paternity is established in Indiana, it opens the door to several legal implications and rights for both the father and the child. Establishing paternity means legally acknowledging the father’s relationship with the child. For fathers, it grants them parental rights, including visitation and custody. It also imposes responsibilities such as child support. For the child, it provides access to the father’s medical history, inheritance rights, and potentially access to benefits like social security or veteran’s benefits. The establishment of paternity is often a crucial step in ensuring the well-being and rights of both the father and the child are recognized and protected under Indiana law.

Legal Assistance Establishing Paternity in Indiana

Facing any type of family law can be emotional and overwhelming. The experienced family law attorneys at Zentz & Roberts provide compassionate legal assistance for all types of family law matters including establishing paternity. We are committed to helping every client achieve the best possible outcome for them and their family. Contact us for a free consultation at 317-220-6056

***Please note: This page is not intended to give specific legal advice but is meant for information purposes only. Contact us to discuss your case***