Establishing Paternity

Definition of Paternity

Paternity is a term meaning the legal father of the child.

Every child has a biological father. The biological father is the man with whom a child's mother becomes pregnant. The legal father is the man the law recognizes as the father of the child. The legal father may or may not be the biological father.

When a woman is married and becomes pregnant, it is presumed that her husband is the legal father of the child and paternity is established without the parents having to take any legal action. When an unmarried woman has a child, an official action is needed to establish the legal father of the child. This is called the establishing of paternity.

How to Establish Paternity

When a child is born to an unmarried mother, paternity can be established if:
  • Both parents agree that the man is the biological father and want him to be the legal father and they sign a Recognition of Parentage
  • Either or both parents ask the court to enter a court order finding that the man is the legal father of the child
  • The parents marry after the child is born. Both parents sign an affidavit and file it with the Office of the State Registrar. Paternity is then established if no other documents filed earlier name another man as the child's legal father.
Parentage must be established before a father's name can be placed on the child's birth certificate.

Reasons to Establish Paternity

The benefits to the child are:
  • Access to family medical history
  • Father's name will be on the birth certificate
  • Health insurance coverage, if available
  • Knowing who both parents are
  • Legal documentation of his or her parents
  • Support from both parents
  • The right to inherit from either parent
  • The right to receive Social Security or veteran's benefits, if available

Methods of Establishing Parentage

Choose from the list below to learn more.