"We love each other, but are not married and want to make sure we do it right and give our baby the dad’s name."
At Ciyou & Dixon, we have handled virtually every type of Indiana paternity case, from the straightforward in establishing paternity to the novel and unusual, such as challenging DNA results. The area is fairly technical since the legal system evolved around the traditional model of a married man and wife and family, and child born in wedlock.
For this reason, the father of the child has no legal rights or obligations (unlike the father of a child born in wedlock) until paternity is established. Under Indiana law, a putative father’s paternity can only be established in one of two ways. The most common is by a father executing a paternity affidavit upon the child’s birth. The other is by a lawsuit under the paternity act.
It is only when paternity is established that a father may seek physical and/or legal custody. In addition, there is no legal duty for a putative father to sign a paternity affidavit or agree to paternity. The way paternity is established when a father is unwilling to accept parentage or when the parties are unsure who the father of the child is, is by genetic testing.
Genetic testing is usually a straightforward process. Each party has a saliva swab taken to the official source providing the service for the court. If a man is a child’s father, it will be established by a greater than 99% probability. In certain cases, even the paternity test may be challenged. What is clear is that a store-bought paternity test is not sufficient to establish paternity.
After paternity is legally established and a custody and support order is issued by the court, the case proceeds and tracks the process in much the same way as a divorce case. The Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines are used to establish child support and its modifications. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines govern parenting time.
In addition, modifications of physical and legal custody and child support follow different, but identical, statutory provisions to divorce matters. In other words, the same facts that establish a modification in a divorce case should result in the same outcome in a paternity case. There are some slight differences, but a skilled advocate can navigate around these (such as provisions for a custody evaluation and attorney fee award).
Again, because paternity involves a child born out of wedlock, the rules are technical. For instance, a father who desires a relationship with a child he believes is his, must file a paternity action within two years of the child’s birth, or he is barred under the Paternity Act. As a parent, if paternity issues are what you face, you should retain knowledgeable counsel to help you navigate these complicated legal rules.
The consequences for technical failures are often severe, ranging from estopping a father from filing a paternity action to denying a child of a relationship with his father and the child support that might yield. Know your facts, and work with counsel to meet the child’s best interests. The paternity lawyers at Ciyou & Dixon are skilled attorneys and are here to help.