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Paternity Actions

A paternity action is a legal method for establishing parental rights to a child and is often used in the case of a child whose parents are not married to one another. Whether you are a single mother or a man who believes he is the father of a child, our Indianapolis family law attorneys can help you ensure that your child is properly provided for in the future.

Indiana law allows the following persons or entities to file a petition to establish paternity of a child : an expectant mother, a child’s mother, a man alleging that he is a child’s biological father, the child, a prosecuting attorney, or a state or county Department of Child Services (DCS).

In Indiana, a man is presumed to be a child’s biological father if he and the child’s biological mother are or have been married to each other and the child is born either during the marriage or within three hundred (300) days after the marriage has been terminated. However, a man claiming to be a child’s biological father may still file a paternity petition and attempt to rebut this presumption. Once a paternity petition has been filed, any party may request that the court order the parties to submit to genetic testing.

Most Indiana hospitals will offer unmarried parents the opportunity to execute a Paternity Affidavit shortly after the birth of their child. In most instances, executing a Paternity Affidavit will establish paternity and will likely limit both parents’ ability to later challenge the paternity determination. Parents should use caution and should consult with a family law attorney (not just the hospital social worker) before executing a Paternity Affidavit.

Indiana offers a Putative Father Registry sponsored by the State Board of Health. Any man who believes he may have fathered a child may register—even if he is uncertain that a child was conceived. Registering as a putative father can help preserve rights of notice of certain legal actions, such as a petition to adopt the child. Failing to register can also waive rights to notice, meaning that a child could be adopted without the prior knowledge or consent of a biological father.

In any paternity action, a court must determine custody and parenting time rights and establish child support obligations for the parents. A non-custodial parent can be required to pay “retroactive support” dating back to the child’s birth or when the paternity action was filed. The court also may order a father to pay for reasonable one-time pregnancy-related and childbirth expenses and to reimburse the costs of genetic testing.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation about a paternity dispute in Central  Indiana!

Whether you are a single mother or a man who believes he is the father of a child, the family law attorneys at Broyles Kight & Ricafort, P.C. can help you ensure that your child is properly provided for in the future.

Our team of recognized and respected family law and divorce attorneys provide legal advice and representation to clients throughout Indianapolis, Indiana and the surrounding area including Greenwood, Franklin, Carmel, Noblesville, Lebanon, Danville, Avon, Zionsville, Anderson, and Richmond.

Indiana Paternity FAQs

How is paternity determined?

There are a few different ways to establish paternity in Indiana. The first is by signing what is called a paternity affidavit within the first 3 days after a child’s birth. The paternity affidavit is a document provided by the Indiana State Department of Health. Both the mother and the father would sign this affidavit.

A party can also file a court case to establish paternity. If paternity is disputed, the Court can order a DNA test to confirm or refute paternity.

Establishing paternity is the mechanism that recognizes who the legal father of the child is, and you’ll be the father on the child’s birth certificate. Additionally, establishing paternity can help facilitate health insurance coverage for your child, or make your child eligible to receive certain benefits, such as veteran benefits, and would recognize your child as a legal heir. If you complete the process, the child will carry the father’s last name.

Parties can reach an agreement regarding paternity and the issues of custody, support, and parenting time, and submit that agreement to the Court for approval and entrance of an Order. Or, if there is no agreement, the parties can proceed to have a hearing in front of the Judge who will decide these issues.

Why is it so important to establish paternity in a divorce case?

Paternity is important to establish in a divorce case if there is a question as to who the father may be. If you fail to raise this issue during the dissolution of marriage action, it will be presumed that you are the father and the child will be entitled to all rights, such as inheritance, as if it were your actual child. Additionally, you’d be responsible for child support, and potentially a portion of post-secondary education costs. If you believe the child is not your child, you must raise this issue during the pendency of the divorce and request a DNA test.

If the child was born prior to the marriage, you must acknowledge in the divorce that the child is yours and stipulate to the paternity to preserve your rights as the child’s parent. If you fail to do so you don’t waive your rights to the child as their parent, but you’d have to go through a different process and file an entirely new paternity case. Dealing with these issues during the divorce can save you time, money and the hassle of an additional court case.

What constitutes child abuse or neglect – and what proof is required to establish that abuse has taken place?

While most parents support a higher standard of parenting, the law defines child abuse or neglect as a situation that, if the court does not intervene, will result in the child being substantially harmed or denied medical care, shelter, food or other crisis services. Civil child abuse and neglect cases are initiated in Indiana by the Department of Child Services or DCS. If DCS asks the court to remove a child from her parents, it needs to have “probable cause” that the child will be harmed or deprived of basic needs. To prove that the alleged abuse or neglect has taken place, DCS will frequently rely photographs of injuries or poor living conditions, criminal histories of the parents showing patterns of drug use or domestic violence, and testimony from people who know the family such as teachers, doctors, or child care providers.

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