In situations where an unmarried woman gives birth, paternity of the child needs to be legally established. The mother may want to establish the father’s identity so that she can get child support for the baby. Or the father may consider establishing paternity so that he has a legal right to a relationship with the child.
Establishing paternity is important for both parents and child. Unless paternity is established, a biological father may have no right to an allocation of parental rights, custody, or parenting time, and the child has no right to child support, to inherit from the father, or to receive government benefits he or she might otherwise have been entitled to through the father. There are three avenues for establishing paternity in Ohio.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
The first, and probably simplest, way to establish paternity is through an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit. Unmarried parents complete this form so that the biological father can be named on the child’s birth certificate. Both parents sign the form, and in so doing, acknowledge that the man named is the legal father of the child.
In order to complete the Affidavit, both parents need to present a picture ID (such as a driver’s license) and supply their Social Security numbers. The father must provide his date and place of birth, highest level of education completed, and current address. He must also identify his employer.
Both the mother and the father must sign the Affidavit before a public notary, though they need not do so together. A father may even be in a separate state when he signs, so long as he meets the requirements and the Affidavit is submitted to the Central Paternity Registry within ten days after the last signature (the mailing address is located on the instructions for the form).
Most Ohio hospitals have notary services available free of charge, so parents who are together may be able to complete an Affidavit acknowledging paternity before they and their newborn child even leave the hospital. If they do not do so, they can still complete the form later at their local health department or Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA).
Parents who are legal minors may sign the form without the involvement of their parents or legal guardians. However, a woman who is married or legally separated from her husband should not complete an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit. This form should also not be used if there is any doubt about who the biological father of the child is.
Administrative Order of Paternity
Another option for unmarried parents to legally establish a child’s paternity is through an administrative order of paternity. With this method, genetic testing is available to confirm the biological relationship of father and child. This process to establish paternity is available at any time from the child’s birth up until his or her 23rd birthday.
If the mother lives in Ohio, the administrative process should be initiated through the CSEA office in the county where she lives. If the mother lives outside the state, the process can be started in the CSEA for the county in which the father resides.
Court Order of Paternity
The third way to legally establish paternity is by getting a court order. This is usually the most complicated method, but it may be necessary if the father is unwilling to acknowledge paternity or there are other complicating factors, such as if the mother is married and pregnant by a man other than her husband.
Court orders establishing paternity are typically obtained in some counties through Juvenile Court, but may be obtained through the Domestic Relations Court where those courts handle cases of never married parents, or as part of a divorce if the biological father of the baby is not the mother’s husband.
A Complaint to establish a Parent-Child relationship is used to request the Court determine paternity. The parties to the lawsuit (mother and alleged father) can agree that he is father or can request genetic tests confirm or rule out paternity. Once paternity is established, all of the rights and responsibilities attach to the parent.
Establishing Paternity When the Mother’s Husband is Not the Biological Father
In Ohio, if a woman is married at the time she gives birth or during the 300 days preceding the birth, the law presumes that her husband is the natural father of her baby. Even if the mother is certain that another man is the biological father, the hospital cannot put the biological father’s name on the birth certificate. Paternity cannot be established by an affidavit acknowledging paternity in this situation.
If the mother got a divorce at any time during her pregnancy, her divorce decree may state that that the husband she divorced is not the father of her child. If that is the case, she can present a copy of her finalized divorce decree to hospital staff when she has the baby. She and the child’s biological father will then be free to complete an affidavit to acknowledge paternity.
If you are an unmarried mother or father of a child in Ohio, you should be aware of your rights as a single parent. If you have questions about Ohio paternity matters, we invite you to contact Graham Hurd Law to schedule a consultation.