As a father, you have the right to be a part of your child’s life. However, it’s not uncommon after a child is born for the mother to try to keep the father from having an active role in the child’s life. Unfortunately, without proof that you are the biological father, the mother could successfully keep you from seeing your child. This is why establishing paternity is so important.
There are also many other reasons why someone might want to establish paternity, such as mothers needing to do so for child support purposes. At Zentz & Roberts, P.C., we have experience with various kinds of paternity cases. If you need assistance, our Indianapolis paternity attorneys can help. Contact us today for a free consultation – 317-220-6056.
What is Paternity?
Paternity is the legal term used when establishing the legal father of a child. Under Indiana law, when a couple is married, the husband is presumed to be the father. However, when a couple is not married, the man must take certain steps to confirm that he is the legal father.
Reasons Why You May Want to Establish Paternity
Establishing paternity can be important for many reasons. Unless paternity rights are established, Indiana will award sole custody of a child to the mother (with a few exceptions). If you are the child’s father, you may want to establish paternity to:
Gain custody of the child
Gain visitation rights
To establish a relationship with your child
To be involved in how the child is raised/disciplined
To be involved in medical or healthcare decisions for the child
To have a say in where the child lives and where they go to school
To have access to the child’s private records
To have a say in the child’s religious affiliations
Establishing paternity can also be a matter of child support. For example, if the mother needs the father to pay child support, she will need to first establish who the father is.
Paternity matters also come up in adoption cases. For example, if the mother wants to give the child up for adoption, the father may need to establish paternity if he wants to have a say in the situation or if he doesn’t want the child to be adopted and wants custody himself. Some men may even choose to hire a paternity attorney to prove that they are not the child’s biological father.
Indiana Paternity Laws
Paternity in Indiana gives the legal father of a child born out of wedlock certain parental rights. These include both the rights a father has concerning things like determining how the child is raised and where they go to school as well as placing certain legal responsibilities on the father, such as providing support, care, and shelter.
Under new Indiana paternity laws, there are two ways of establishing paternity when the child is born out of wedlock:
The paternity affidavit is a legal document declaring that a man is the father of a child. It can be completed at the hospital within 72 hours of the child’s birth or at the local health department any time before the child is emancipated.
When paternity is not contested, the affidavit is often signed by both parents when the child is born. Once submitted to the Indiana State Department of Health, the man will then be officially listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
Once the affidavit is submitted, the mother does not have the right to rescind paternity. However, the father listed on the document has the right to withdraw or rescind his acknowledgement of paternity only within 60 days of the date the affidavit is completed (signed by both parties). After 60 days, the affidavit can only be withdrawn with proof of duress, fraud, or mistake of fact. The affidavit will also require the parents to select options concerning the legal custody of the child. If the parents wish to share joint legal custody, the parents must submit the results of a genetic test within 60 days of the child’s birth, otherwise the agreement to share joint legal custody will be void.
If paternity is contested, the court may require DNA testing to confirm paternity. A court-approved lab will swab the child and the father and the results will be submitted as evidence. If the DNA confirms the man is the father, he will receive paternal rights, including obligations of care as dictated by Indiana child support laws.
If either party refuses to sign the affidavit, a court order may be requested. For example, the mother may file an action to determine paternity if the father does not agree. If this is the case, the action must be filed within the father’s lifetime or within five months after his death.
If the father wishes to establish paternity but the mother disagrees, he may also file an action in court. It is also possible for a child to file an action to determine who their biological father is.
If the mother is applying for child support from the father but the father disagrees, the local prosecutor’s office may file the paternity action. In this case, the purpose of determining paternity is to get the father to pay child support.
Once a paternity action has been filed, the court will set a date for a hearing and will notify the appropriate parties that they are required to appear on that date. At the hearing, if the mother and father do not agree, either of them may request genetic testing, or the court may order genetic testing after hearing evidence.
If the court determines the man to be the father, it will issue a decree which confers parental rights according to Indiana law.
How Long Do You Have to Establish Paternity?
Indiana legislation states that a person seeking paternity must file an action within two years of the birth of the child. However, there are exceptions which include the following:
The alleged father has already provided support for the child, either voluntarily or through an agreement with the child’s mother.
The mother and the father agree to file jointly and can then waive the timing limitation.
The mother filed after the alleged father already acknowledged in writing that he is the biological father.
The person who filed the action was legally incompetent when the child was born.
The mother or the alleged father could not be served with a summons within the two-year period.
If any of the above exceptions are true, the petition to establish paternity must then be filed within two years from when the relevant condition no longer exists.
What Legal Rights Does Establishing Paternity Give a Father?
Access to information regarding education and schooling
Access to information regarding medical care
Information about where the child resides
Communication with the child
Decisions regarding discipline
The father will also have certain responsibilities and obligations as a parent, which include:
Proving basic necessities such as clothing, food, and shelter
Providing financial support
Zentz & Roberts P.C. – Paternity Attorneys in Indianapolis
As Indiana family law attorneys, our goal is to help you and your family reach the best possible outcome with the child’s best interests in mind. We have years of experience handling various family law cases, including those involving matters of paternity. If you want to establish paternity, contact us as soon as possible at 317-220-6056. We are here and ready to help.
***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***