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The ideal way to establish paternity is voluntarily. Hospitals employ programs by which the parties can acknowledge paternity before leaving the hospital by signing a notarized, voluntary acknowledgement. Both mother and father have to agree to do this.

If the parents do not sign the Acknowledgement in the hospital, they can file affidavits in a court case, in which both acknowledge paternity. They may also acknowledge paternity in court by way of testimony. Again this is a situation whereby both agree to the course of action. Generally, the father’s name will be added to the birth certificate at this point, if there is no dispute.

If a Mother files an appropriate court action and the alleged father does not fight the accusation that he is the father, then the Court can make a determination that he is the father, anyhow. If you receive papers trying to establish paternity in this manner, you need to talk with an attorney to get good legal advice about how to respond.

A father’s name can be added to the birth certificate after this step is completed.

If there is no agreement on paternity and the alleged father challenges paternity (believes he is not the father), the next major step is likely genetic testing, namely both sides submitting to a DNA test. It is critical that if there is any question as to the paternity of a child that DNA testing be done early on. It can become progressively more difficult to go back and try to undo court orders about child support and custody if the alleged father goes along with paying child support and parenting a child for a period of time. Again, a father’s name can be added to the birth certificate at this point, after this matter has been sorted out.

If the biological mother is married to someone other than the biological father at the time the child is born or anytime in the ten months before then, that creates unique issues that must be discussed with a family law attorney.

Once paternity has been established, parents need to hammer out the details on how they will raise their children. These matters can be worked out by agreement, with the parents coming up with Agreed Orders, or the Court might need to rule. You should discuss these issues with a family law attorney. It is very important that all the important issues are addressed, including: custody, timesharing, child support, health insurance, medical expenses, extracurricular activities, taxes.

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