Child Support

Child Support Services

Paternity Establishment

What is paternity?

Paternity means fatherhood or the relationship of a father.  Establishing paternity means either a judge signs a court order stating who the legal father is, genetic testing establishes a 99 percent probability of paternity, or the father and mother voluntarily sign a paternity affidavit naming the father of the child. 

Paternity should be established if the parents of the child were not married at the time the mother becomes pregnant or at the time of the birth of the child. 

Why is it important to establish a child's legal father?

The establishment of paternity gives a child born outside marriage the same legal rights as a child born to married persons. Children with legal fathers are entitled to benefits through their fathers. These benefits include: Social Security benefits, veterans benefits and inheritance rights. Children may also benefit by knowing their families’ biological, cultural and medical history.

Child Support offices help parents establish paternity for a child who does not have a legal father. Paternity must be established before the court can establish the father’s obligation to pay child support.

What is the difference between a legal father and a biological father?

Every child has a biological father. The biological father is the man who contributed half of the child’s genetic makeup. The legal father may not be the biological father. The legal father is the man the law recognizes as the father of the child.

When a married couple has a child, the law automatically recognizes the husband as the child’s legal father; therefore, paternity does not need to be determined. When an unmarried woman has a child, an official act is needed to establish the legal father of a child. This is called the establishing of paternity.

Paternity can be established by:

  • The mother and the alleged father agreeing that he is the father of the child and then signing the Paternity Affidavit Form.
  • The mother and the alleged father asking the court to officially declare he is the child’s legal father.

Sometimes, parents may want proof that the man is the biological father of the child before he is named the legal father. In that case, the parents can request genetic testing. This testing can exclude a man who is not the biological father of the child, or it can create a legal presumption of paternity if the test results show a 99 percentor greater probability the man is the father. Once paternity is established, an order for child support can be established.