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How do fathers in Indiana establish paternity?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2023 | Child-Related Matters

There is very little question about who is the biological mother of a child, but fatherhood, also referred to as paternity, is not always quite so straightforward. Men in Indiana sometimes have to actively establish their role as fathers if they want shared custody or other parental rights.

Many men do not understand what this process entails and will, therefore, delay taking simple steps that could give them more time with their child and more say in their upbringing.

When a father is married to the mother of his child

For a significant portion of new fathers in Indiana, the establishment of their paternal role is effectively automatic. If they have legally married the mother of the child, then their inclusion on the birth certificate is automatic unless the family takes special steps to intervene in that process.

However, the presumption of paternity technically only applies when the father has already married the mother before the child’s birth. That presumption applies even if they separate during the pregnancy. A marriage after the child’s birth would still require paperwork filed with the state either at the time of birth or the time of marriage to establish paternity.

Executing a paternity affidavit

When there is no question over who is the biological father but simply a lack of a marital relationship between the parents, the process of acknowledging the father is simple if the mother cooperates. The two can sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital after the child’s birth or for 72 hours after the birth to add the father’s name to the birth certificate. As long as the mother cooperates, the process can be relatively quick.

Genetic testing

In a scenario where the birth mother refuses to acknowledge the father or where there is perhaps some question about the actual identity of the biological father, a genetic test may be necessary. A father can ask the Indiana family courts to order paternity testing. So long as the test results affirm that they are the father of the child, the father can then have his name added to the birth certificate despite the lack of cooperation from the mother of the child. Genetic testing is currently both non-invasive and highly accurate in most cases, and such test results can be the compelling evidence needed to help a father secure his rights in family court.

Formally establishing paternity with the state of Indiana can be a key endeavor for fathers who hope to play an active role in the lives of their children. Those who have questions about this process can seek legal guidance at any time.