A father and daughter play in a field


Attorney Paul J. Sweeney Aug. 24, 2021

Paternity is not automatically established unless the biological parents are married when the child is born. This is true even when the parents are currently residing together. It is essential for parents to establish paternity as soon as possible so that the child has a legal father.

This can be accomplished by having the respective father voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity, which can be signed at birth or before the child turns 18 years old. By doing so, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate.

On the other hand, if the biological father is unknown or refuses to sign the Declaration of Paternity, the mother can pursue legal action to establish paternity. This will require the mother to sign an affidavit, naming the individual she believes to be the father. An Attorney will locate and contact him with a notice of a claim of paternity, which will provide him with an opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge paternity. Soon thereafter, he will be scheduled for genetic testing. If for any reason, the presumed father refuses testing, the Court may determine his paternity by default. Once testing is complete, both Parties will be provided with the results and a hearing will be scheduled. If the father does not contest the results, paternity will be officially established 60 days after the date of the hearing.

Establishing Paternity not only provides your child with a sense of identity as an extension of knowing their legal father, but it also gives a child rights and benefits that would otherwise not be accessible if paternity is not established. More importantly, it also allows you to have access to the father’s medical records. This can be vital in combating current and future medical issues that your child may face. Knowing the source and getting ahead of family predispositions to any conditions is pivotal to ensuring a healthy and fruitful life for your child.