Why and How to Establish Paternity

Making the effort to formally establish paternity is about much more than just a monthly child support check. Consider that:

  1. Every child has the right to know and be known by his or her father.
  2. When you establish paternity, your child also gains legal benefits, including:
  • The right to benefit financially from the birth father. In addition to potentially receiving regular child support, your child has a legal right to death benefits—including social security or Veteran's benefits, in addition to any possible inheritance—in the event of the birth father's death. Choosing not to formally establish paternity results in the loss of these potential financial benefits for the child.
  • Access to the father's medical history. Establishing paternity allows your child to potentially be informed of any genetic medical issues that could have been passed on from the birth father.

How Can the Birth Father Voluntarily Establish Paternity?

Birth Certificate

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If you would like to formally establish paternity, you should begin by asking the father of your child to voluntarily acknowledge paternity. In doing so, he agrees to accept responsibility for the child and pay child support until the child reaches the age of majority.

The birth father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity in two ways:

  1. He can be present at the birth of your child and sign a Declaration of Paternity. (Sometimes this paperwork is called an Acknowledgment of Paternity.) This documentation is also necessary in order to have the father's name placed on the child's birth certificate if you choose to do so.
  2. If he is not present at the birth, he can complete an affidavit of paternity anytime between the birth of the child up until the child turns 18. If this document is not completed before the birth certificate is issued, and you want the father's name listed on the birth certificate, you can apply to have the birth certificate altered to add the father's name at a later date.​

How Can You Establish Paternity Without the Birth Father's Cooperation?

Mother using cell phone and holding newborn baby

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If the alleged father of your child does not voluntarily acknowledge your child as his own, and you wish to formally establish paternity, you should contact your local Office of Child Support Enforcement.

The process for establishing paternity in IV-D cases includes:

  1. Meeting with the mother to discuss the process for establishing paternity.
  2. Having the mother sign an affidavit indicating the identity of the alleged father.
  3. Locating the alleged father. This is done using resources provided by various governmental agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Department of Defense (DOD).
  4. Contacting the alleged father and give him a chance to voluntarily acknowledge paternity.
  5. Requesting that all parties - the alleged father, as well as the mother and child - submit to genetic testing. (Note that if the alleged father does not submit to genetic testing, he may be determined to be the child's father by default.)
  6. Informing the alleged father of the paternity results.
  7. If test results indicate that the alleged father is the biological father the child, and he does not contest the results, those results will then be recognized as a conclusive determination of paternity after 60 days.
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