Paternity means fatherhood.
Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child. When parents are married, paternity is automatically established in most cases. If parents are unmarried, paternity establishment is not automatic and the process should be started by both parents as soon as possible for the benefit of the child.
Paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child. When parents are married, in most cases, paternity is established without legal action. If parents are unmarried, paternity establishment requires a court order. The process should be started by both parents as soon as possible for the benefit of the child.
Until paternity is established, the father does not have the legal rights or responsibilities of a parent. Establishing paternity is necessary before custody, visitation and child support can be ordered by the court. (Note: custody and visitation issues are handled separately from child support.) A permanent child support order cannot be established for a child until either the alleged father admits paternity or it is proven that he is the father. If the man will not admit that he is the father, blood tests will be ordered from the mother, child and alleged father.
Establishing paternity is an important first step in obtaining child support. In addition to providing the basis for obtaining support from the noncustodial parent, establishing paternity gives a child born to unmarried parents the legal rights and privileges of a child born within a marriage. Those rights and privileges may include:
- support from both parents
- legal documentation of who his or her parents are
- access to family medical records (Many diseases, illnesses, birth defects and other health problems are passed to children by their parents.)
- medical and life insurance coverage from either parent, if available
- inheritance rights
- Social Security and veterans’ benefits, if available
- the emotional benefits of knowing who both parents are
- facts about the relationship, the pregnancy and the child’s birth;
- whether or not the alleged father ever provided any money for the child;
- whether or not the alleged father ever admitted in any way that the child was his (for example: through letters or gifts);
- a picture of the alleged father with the child, if available;
- any information from others who can verify the mother and alleged father’s relationship;
- the alleged father’s home address
- his home or business address
- whether or not the child was conceived in Maryland, and if the child ever lived in Maryland
Paternity may be determined after blood tests are given to the mother, child and the alleged father. Test results are available in approximately four to eight weeks. The tests exclude men who are not the father and indicate the likelihood of paternity of a man who is not excluded. Blood tests are very reliable, which is why so few paternity cases go to trial.
No. Children of any age may be tested, although some laboratories will not take blood from an infant younger than six months of age.
No. If the blood tests show that it is likely that he is the father, the matter will be set for a hearing or trial and paternity will be decided. If the issue of paternity is to be tried, then the CSA will have to do additional investigation to prepare for the trial. Once the CSA believes that it is prepared for trial, it will request that the court set the date for trial. This process could take from a few weeks to more than a year, depending on the circumstances.
If the alleged father is found and served a formal complaint, the local court will make a decision on the paternity question. At the same time, a court order to pay child support may be issued. This order can be enforced by any state. However, enforcement may take longer when the non-custodial parent lives outside Maryland.
When the father starts working, he will be able to support the child. Establishing paternity as soon as possible will make collecting child support easier later on.
Once paternity is established, the CSA will establish a support order, in most cases.
Yes. The paperwork may be filed during the pregnancy. If the alleged father denies paternity, paternity can be determined by blood tests after the child is born. Arrangements for the blood test can be made with your doctor, or blood tests can be done through the CSA.