Establishing Paternity Fact Sheet

Before the state can start to establish paternity, an allegation of paternity must be made by the child's mother, the custodial parent (if it isn't the mother), a man claiming to be the child's biological father, or the child.

After the allegation is made, the process to establish paternity will begin within 90 days of locating the alleged father.

In cases where there is more than one alleged father, the Office of Child Support and Paternity Programs (OCSPP) will start proceedings against all alleged fathers named by the client. An alleged father can be excluded from the proceedings if genetic testing reveals less than a 95 percent probability of paternity or if the court says he is not the father.

The OCSPP has a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity program called the Paternity Opportunity Program, or POP. Through POP, a father can sign a Certificate of Parentage and it will have the same force and effect as a court order or a judgment of paternity.

If a voluntary acknowledgement is signed anywhere other than the hospital or local registrar's office or if established by the court, the parents must request that the father's name is placed on the birth certificate. This is not done automatically.

Before signing the Certificate of Parentage, both parents will be notified in writing what signing the document means, their rights in this process and the other options they have.

Either party may:

  • Request genetic testing before signing the certificate; or
  • Have a change of mind about signing the certificate within 60 days of signing.

By signing the Certificate of Parentage, the alleged father becomes responsible for child support and health care coverage for the child, and the OCSPP may seek, modify and enforce orders regarding support issues.

It is important to establish paternity as a link to your child's past. Just the knowledge of the father's name and of his medical history can help your child in years to come.

If the parties refuse to sign the certificate and no complaint has been filed to establish paternity, then a complaint will need to be filed in court. The parties will then be required to undergo genetic testing.

Some requirements for genetic testing:

  • It must be done by a state-approved facility.
  • If the test results show a 95 percent or higher probability, the man is presumed to be the father.
  • The county agency will pay for all costs associated with the genetic testing. However, the agency will ask the court to make sure the agency gets reimbursed for these costs by whoever requests the test, unless:
    • the man tested is deemed not to be the father; or
    • the court declares the father cannot afford the cost.
  • Either party can contest the results by sending a written objection to the agency within 10 days of receiving the results. The party objecting to the results is responsible for paying for additional genetic testing.

Special circumstances:

If 'good cause' is established in a Welfare case, paternity proceedings are waived.

If a child is born to married parents, and the mother alleges that someone other than her husband is the child's father, it may be necessary to establish paternity with the alleged biological father. If the husband signs an affidavit denying paternity and the mother and biological father sign a Certificate of Parentage, then a child support obligation can be established.

Paternity can be established even if either parent is under 18 years of age. This includes unemancipated minors.

If the alleged father is under 18 and will not sign a Certificate of Parentage, a paternity complaint can be filed in court. The court will then follow the rules regarding legal actions taken against minors.