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Paternity Basics: Who Can File and When?

During the course of domestic proceedings, paternity may be at issue. There are, of course, original paternity actions, but paternity may also be at issue for related cases. For example, a third party seeking to modify custody or get a guardianship of a child will need to explore if paternity has been established before filing.

So, who can file a paternity action?

  • A mother or expectant mother,
  • a man alleging that he is the child’s biological father or
  • the expectant father of an unborn child,
  • a mother and man alleging he is her child’s biological father, filing jointly,
  • an expectant mother and a man alleging he is the biological father of her unborn child, filing jointly,
  • a child,
  • the department of a county office of family and children, and/or the prosecuting attorney1.

The parents (or alleged parents) and the child are proper parties to file for paternity.

Additionally, the prosecutor or department/office of family and children may file to establish paternity. This is potentially done in cases where there is no child support being paid for the benefit of the child and the child and mother are receiving state benefits (e.g. food stamps, welfare), or the child is determined to be a Child in Need of Services (CHINS).

The timing of when a paternity action may be filed is also ruled by Indiana law. Generally, the rule is that the mother, a man alleging to be the child’s father, of the department or its agents must file a paternity action not later than two (2) years after the child is born2. However, there are several exceptions, including waiver or the alleged father has furnished support voluntarily or under agreement.

The timeframe for a child to file for paternity is broader. Generally, a child may file for paternity any time before the child reaches twenty (20) years of age. There are restrictions and exceptions to this as well, and a child younger than eighteen (18) can file through his/her guardian, guardian ad litem, or next friend.

The basics of paternity involve a number of standards and rules, and we hope that this blog has been helpful in exploring the major factors in filing to establish paternity. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.


  1. See Ind. Code §31-14-4-1
  2. See Ind. Code §31-14-5-3
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