How Do I Establish Paternity? 8

About: Paternity

What Options are Available to Legally Prove Fatherhood?

While the identity of the biological mother is always a given, the ability to identify the biological father (paternity) isn’t always assumed, especially in instances where the parents are not legally married.

For this reason, many fathers need to make an extra effort and establish legal paternity to ensure his rights and responsibilities as a parent are protected. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do.

While the terminology and procedural steps may vary from state to state, there are generally three ways to legally establish paternity:

  1. Presumed – Paternity is presumed under the law when the parents are legally married and living together at the time the baby is born. Many states have a few additional requirements such as the father must “hold the child out” to the public as his son or daughter and/or that the parents must have been married for a specified time period before the birth. Check your state’s laws to learn more about your local requirements.
  2. Affidavit – When the parents are unmarried but paternity is uncontested, both parents may sign a formal statement that “declares” paternity. In some states, this is called an Affidavit of Paternity while other states refer to it as a Declaration of Paternity, but it’s essentially the same thing. Affidavits can typically be obtained from your local Health and Human Resources Department and in addition, many states now require hospitals to offer affidavits to the parents at the time of birth. To be binding, affidavits must be signed by both parents and notarized.
  3. Genetic Testing – If the paternity is contested by one or both of the parents, genetic testing can be performed to determine the biological father. This testing can often be ordered by the Department of Health and Human Resources and is typically considered binding by the court. If one or both of the parents refuse to abide by the request for testing by DHS, the court can issue an order for testing. Regardless of who issues the order, the court must “declare” the paternity and make any orders with regard to child support, custody and visitation.

For more on this topic, you may want to check out this book on the rights of unmarried parents. If you have specific paternity questions relating to your situation, we recommend that you contact an attorney.


  • If a alleged father signed the declaration of paternity at the hospital could he request a DNA test even if the woman has not put him on child support? And if by signing the Declaration of Paternity, if proven not the father will he still be reliable for the child?

    • Monica Mazzei

      Generally, a father who has signed a Declaration of Paternity may file a motion in court to set aside the Declaration. You should check your local laws to find out if there is a time limitation on his ability to file such a motion, and on what grounds he could set aside the declaration.

      A man may still be responsible for the payment of child support even if he is not the biological father. Again, your local laws may have specific restrictions regarding what criteria he would have to satisfy to be responsibile for child support.

  • Curious

    What can a mother do to legally demand child support from an ex-husband for a child that she admits isn’t from the marriage if conception occured during the divorce proceedings but birth occured AFTER the final divorce decree?

  • mwstewart

    I’m 64 living in Nevada. My child support was filed in California. I have been paying arrears for a long time through my employment. I’m down to $3000 left to pay. Last few years been paying through unemployment benefits and unemployment extension. Unemployment benefits ended and I still have no job. (Living with the help of friends, place to stay and food). I cannot pay support arrears at this time. I’ll resume payments as soon as possible. What can I do with DA in CA. meanwhile, or any advise you can give.

  • tamera

    If I am married can someone else sign the paternity affidafit that isn’t my husband


    if im married and questioning paternity for the born child, if the mother states she does not want a paternity test in court and the judge abides because were married how can i still find out if this child is mine since i have doubts that the child is mine.



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