Law Articles

The Basics of Paternity Law

Establishing paternity is a cornerstone issue in determining a biological father’s responsibility to pay child support or sustain custody rights through the child’s life until adulthood. It helps to understand the process in which paternity is decided to know how things might play out if the child was born to an unmarried mother.

 How to Establish Paternity in Ohio

There are two ways of establishing paternity in our state: signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity affidavit or pursuing a paternity lawsuit. The former allows both parents to sign their names to acknowledge that the man is truthfully the child’s parent and legal father. Once this affidavit is signed and submitted, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. 

However, if there is a paternity dispute, either parent can bring a lawsuit to court, where the judge will determine (usually through mandated genetic testing) whether the man is actually the child’s father. This determination plays a key role in child support liability.

What About Same-Sex Couples?

Although same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015, many state courts have yet to catch up with the same range of rights around paternity as heterosexual couples. In some cases, both parents can be added to the child’s birth certificate, but it’s unclear if that’s enough legal proof, in the long run, to protect the non-biological parent’s rights in the event of a divorce or the death of the biological parent. One other possible course of action is to begin the process of a step-parent adoption.

Verifying paternity can have a range of benefits for both parents and even set up the child down the road to receive Social Security benefits if the father is eligible to receive them. 

Paternity is just one of many difficult family dynamics and if you encounter any issues around determining the father of a child, it may be time to consult a qualified family law attorney. Call the knowledgeable and professional team at Garretson & Holcomb, LLC today at (513) 863-6600 to learn more about how we’ve guided Butler and Warren county families through paternity disputes.