There are several people/entities that can bring a case to establish paternity of a child born out of wedlock. Specifically, either parent, the child, a department or county office of family and children, and a prosecuting attorney1.
Generally, the county prosecutor can file an action to establish paternity on behalf of the Title IV-D (often referred to a Title Four D) office when there are issues of child support, and/or recouping costs from both parents for prenatal care, and costs of the birth of the child if the mother received state or government assistance with paying those costs up front. The reason that a government entity may bring an action to recoup these costs and establish child support is grounded in the public policy that both parents shall share in the costs of their child(ren) and that burden should not fall on the state if either parent can afford same.
The Title IV-D Office is established through the Social Security Act, which outlines procedures a statue must establish to receive federal funding for families under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Act. Indiana implemented these procedures, which include establishment of paternity, establishment of child support orders, and modification and enforcement of child support orders2.
Through the Title IV-D office, Indiana’s program includes collecting child support payments, and assisting in obtaining a support order where none exists. However, there are limitations to the office and prosecutor’s ability to bring an action to establish paternity. The statute’s allowing for the establishment of paternity are broader in scope than duties of the Title IV-D office.
A recently decided case pointed out exactly where the statutes allow for the establishment of paternity actions, but where the prosecutor, through the Title IV-D, cannot bring an action. In In re the PATERNITY of D.M., the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed the unique circumstance where the county prosecutor filed to establish paternity of a stillborn child born out of wedlock3. Additionally, the mother gave birth at home because she was not aware she was pregnant, and therefore, there were no prenatal or birth costs paid by state funds or otherwise for which to recoup from the father. There are no future child support issues or custody/parenting time, because the child was born stillborn.
The Indiana Court of Appeals decided that even though the paternity statutes specifically allow for the establishment of paternity for a stillborn child, the county prosecutor, through the Title IV-D office, did not have authority to bring a case to establish paternity when there are no prenatal and birth costs to recoup4. In the case, the only reason to establish paternity was for closure for the family to understand what happened. This is not within the policy limitations of the Title IV-D office to do.
We hope that you have found this information to be helpful in understanding what Title IV-D is and the policies and limitations in paternity actions. This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about your specific case, CIYOU & DIXON, P.C. can help evaluate your specific case. This blog post was written by Attorney, Lori B. Schmeltzer.