It is important for a child to know who the father is, and it’s important for the father too. In Indiana, if you need to establish paternity, or if you are involved in a paternity, child custody, or child support dispute, a Lake County paternity lawyer can help.

Generally speaking, both parents have a right to build a healthy relationship with their child or children, and both are responsible to take care of and support their children. Establishing paternity ensures that a father has a legal right to build a relationship with his child or children.

UNWED PARENTS MAY FACE ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES

Like divorcing parents, many unmarried parents also often deal with matters like child custody, child support, and visitation. Visitation and custody schedules often must be created, and each parent’s child support obligation often must be decided.

However, unwed parents will need to take additional steps, or Indiana courts will not recognize a paternity right or the parental rights that attach to paternity. Unwed mothers automatically have parental rights, but establishing paternity requires the agreement of both parties – or a DNA test.

When paternity has been established in Indiana, a legal father then has the same parental responsibilities and rights the mother has, and that includes a right to go to court over child custody, child support, and child visitation disputes.

WHY IS ESTABLISHING PATERNITY SO IMPORTANT FOR A CHILD?

Establishing paternity can also give a child access to important information regarding inherited health conditions. In addition, establishing paternity gives a child the right to:

1. inheritance rights
2. Social Security survivor or dependent benefits
3. veterans’ benefits
4. health and life insurance benefits

HOW DO YOU LEGALLY ESTABLISH PATERNITY?

The presumption in the state of Indiana is that a man is legally a child’s father if he was married to the mother when the birth took place or if the child was born no more than 300 days after the marriage ends.

All other circumstances require that legal paternity in Indiana must be established with either a court order or a paternity affidavit.

HOW DO PATERNITY AFFIDAVITS WORK?

Paternity affidavits are legal documents that let a couple declare that a man is a child’s biological father. In Indiana, paternity affidavits establish a father’s right to a share of custody and his responsibility to provide child support.

The paternity affidavit must be signed at the hospital and by the parents within seventy-two hours of a child’s birth or at a local health department office at any time prior to a child’s emancipation.

Under Indiana law, the paternity affidavit must be offered separately at the hospital to the mother and to, in the words of the law, the “man who reasonably appears to be the child’s biological father.”

This provision lets each party review the document alone and eliminates the possibility of pressure from the other party. Before you sign a paternity affidavit, if you have concerns about your parental rights, consult with a family law attorney who will offer you sound legal advice.

WHEN IS A PATERNITY AFFIDAVIT OFFICIAL?

After a paternity affidavit is filed, the Indiana State Department of Health adds that father’s name on the birth certificate.

If both parents do not sign a paternity affidavit, either parent may ask the court to order DNA testing to establish paternity.

SHOULD YOU REQUEST A COURT ORDER TO ESTABLISH PATERNITY?

Either parent of a child may a request a court order that establishes a child’s paternity. A county prosecutor may also ask the court for a paternity determination in a child support case.

After a request for a paternity determination has been filed, a hearing will be scheduled and both parties will be notified. At an Indiana paternity hearing:

1. The parties may agree on paternity without genetic testing.
2. A prosecutor may submit a request for genetic testing if child support is an issue.
3. One or both parties may seek genetic testing to make a paternity determination.
4. The court may hear evidence and decide if paternity should be legally established.

If the court orders genetic testing, the court will wait for the results before making any paternity decision. A paternity test must be conducted at an accredited lab facility. Over-the-counter, at-home paternity tests are not admissible in Indiana as evidence at paternity hearings.

WHAT ARE SOME OF A PARENT’S RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES?

When paternity is determined and legally established, a father’s parental rights include making medical decisions for the child and decisions about the child’s residence, childcare, religious training, education, and activities.

Along with parental rights, legal paternity also entails parental responsibilities, particularly the responsibility to support the child and to provide for food, clothing, housing, education, and healthcare either directly or indirectly by making child support payments.

When a man in Indiana believes he is a child’s father, but the mother disputes that claim, the man should seek legal advice and representation from an Indiana family law attorney. If a man denies that he is a father, but a mother believes he is, that mother should also seek an attorney’s help.

HOW WILL A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY HELP?

The right Lake County paternity lawyer can explain a parent’s legal rights and options, request a court order to establish paternity, and represent parents aggressively and effectively in child support and custody proceedings.

When any child custody dispute or any other legal matter involving a child comes before an Indiana court, the court’s top priority will always be the best interests of the child.

A good lawyer’s help is your right. If you need a lawyer’s help with paternity or with any legal matter that involves your kids, get that help at once. Nothing is more important than our children.