Establishing Paternity

If you are not married to the father of your child, the Agency can help you legally determine the identity of the child's father. This process is called "establishing paternity." Establishing paternity guarantees a child's right to receive financial support, medical support, and inheritances from the father.

The length of time it takes to obtain a judgment of paternity depends on what steps will be necessary to complete the process. If a man admits paternity and signs papers declaring himself to be the father, then the process is very fast. Frequently, however, it is ordered that genetic testing be done to confirm that a man is the father of a child; this can take a month or so to schedule and receive the results. If there is a trial by jury, it may take months to be scheduled and heard by the court.

A way to legally establish paternity that does not require the services of the Child Support Agency is for both parents to complete a "Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement" form. However, filling out this form does not establish a child support order in and of itself. For more information about this form, you may call any local hospital or the Child Support Agency.

A child support order cannot be obtained without either 1) judgment of paternity, 2) genetic testing which establishes a 99% or greater likelihood of paternity, or 3) a filed Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and subsequent motion to the court for child support.

Legal Fatherhood Protects Your Baby's Rights

If you establish legal fatherhood, your child:
  • Will know who his or her father is
  • Will be entitled to receive financial support from both parents until he or she becomes an adult
  • Will have rights to his or her father's social security, veterans' benefits, pension, and inheritance if something should happen
  • Will have the rights to tribal enrollment if Native American
  • Will have access to the father's family's heath history (by the child's doctor). This is important because conditions such as diabetes, cancers, heart problems, and sickle cell run in families
  • May be enrolled in his or her father's health insurance plan

Legal Fatherhood Protects the Father's Rights

Legal fatherhood gives the father the right to:
  • Have his name on the child's birth certificate
  • Have his child know who his or her father is
  • Have his parental rights considered before his baby can be placed for adoption
  • Ask the court for legal custody and placement/visitation of his child