Paternity is the process of legally establishing the identity of the biological Father of a child born out of wedlock. Typically, the Mother, Father, or County Prosecutor file a Petition to Establish Paternity in the Juvenile Court and a hearing is scheduled. At this initial hearing, the Father may admit or deny paternity. If paternity is denied, a second hearing will be scheduled, and the Father will be ordered to take a paternity test prior to the second hearing. If it is determined that he is the Father, or if he admits paternity at the initial hearing, the Court will then establish custody, parenting time, child support, and other issues such as who pays for any birthing expenses, and who claims the child for tax purposes. At the initial custody determination, there is no preference under the law for the Mother. Like in a divorce, custody is determined based on the best interest of the child. If the parties agree as to custody, parenting time, etc., they are free to avoid a court appearance by executing a written agreement that is filed with the Court. In Indiana, paternity, as well as joint legal custody, can be established at the time of birth, at the hospital, if the parties execute the appropriate forms.
Paternity Myth 1: Paternity can only be established by a Court
Paternity may be established at the time of the child's birth, at the hospital, if the parties execute the appropriate documents. The parents can also agree to joint legal custody through the documents offered by the Hospital. What must be determined by the Court, if the parties cannot agree, are issues such as child support, parenting time, and who pays for birthing expenses.