Establishing Paternity in Indiana

August 16, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Establishing Paternity in Indiana 

Establishing paternity in Indiana is the first step in determining the rights and responsibilities of both parents. It allows parents access to the courts to resolve issues like child custody, parenting time, and child support. It could also be the first step in a father’s quest to gain the parental or custodial rights of his children. Regardless, a child deserves the right to bond with both parents; and establishing paternity in Indiana is vital to making this happen.  

If you need assistance establishing paternity in Indiana, the family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you navigate these difficult and important legal questions. If you would like to speak with an Indiana paternity lawyer today, call (317) 648-9560 or complete our online contact form.  

The Process of Establishing Paternity in Indiana 

Establishing paternity in Indiana can occur in several ways, including: 

  • The father and mother are married at the time of the child’s birth 
  • The father was married to the mother within the 300 days preceding the child’s birth 
  • The unwed parents both sign and submit a paternity affidavit to the court 
  • A court with jurisdiction determines paternity, with or without genetic DNA testing 

Under some circumstances, establishing paternity in Indiana is quite simple. For example, if a mother and father are married when the child is born, they are the legal parents of the child with equal rights and responsibilities. The process becomes more complicated, however, when a child is born out of wedlock or when the identity of the father is in dispute. In cases like these, an Indiana attorney with extensive experience in paternity law may be required to successfully navigate the legal landscape of establishing paternity in Indiana. 

Paternity Affidavits 

Establishing paternity in situations where a child is born out of wedlock requires the parents to file an Indiana paternity affidavit. This document conveys the rights and responsibilities of parenthood to the named father, including the obligations of care under Indiana child support laws. It also contains areas in which the parents must make certain decisions regarding the legal and physical custody of the child.

Paternity affidavits are typically filed at the time of birth. However, parents can file a paternity affidavit at any point prior to the child turning 18 years old unless another person is listed as the child’s father on the birth certificate. Once a paternity affidavit has been filed, a mother does not have the right to rescind the affidavit. However, the father listed on the document has 60 days after signing to request an annulment of the document. In the case of an annulment, the court may require DNA testing to verify the claim. After the 60-day period has passed, a paternity affidavit can only be withdrawn with proof of fraud, duress, or  mistake of fact. Furthermore, in the state of Indiana, it is a Class A misdemeanor for a mother to knowingly mischaracterize a man as the father of her child when it is not the case.

Filing a paternity affidavit is not a quick and straightforward process. This is a legal document with highly specific requirements for completion, attachments, signing, and submission. There is a lot at stake when completing this document. If you are preparing to submit a paternity affidavit, you should speak with an experienced Indiana paternity lawyer. They can help you complete and submit the document correctly so that you avoid making any errors that could lead to future legal problems.  

Establishing Paternity by Court Order 

There are several circumstances that allow for individuals to file an action in the court of jurisdiction to seek a determination on establishing paternity in Indiana.  

  1. The mother can file an action in court to determine paternity if the alleged father does not agree that he is the father. However, this must be done within the alleged father’s lifetime or five months of his death. 
  2. The putative father may file a claim in court if he believes that he is the father of the child, while the mother claims that he is not the father.  
  3. The child can file an action in court for a paternal determination on their own behalf.  
  4. In some cases, when a mother applies for public assistance for her child, such as Indiana’s Title IV-D Child Support Program, the local prosecutor’s office may file a paternity action. 

Once a paternity action is filed in court, a date is set for a hearing and both parties are notified to appear in court on that date. The party who disagrees on paternity or any related issues would be wise to retain the counsel of an Indiana attorney with experience in paternity proceedings. If want to speak with an Indiana paternity lawyer today, call (317) 648-9560 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

Paternity Hearings

At the hearing, the mother and alleged father may either agree or disagree on paternity. If they do not agree, one of them may request genetic testing and the court can hear evidence to decide on the request. If genetic testing is ordered by the court, it must be done by an accredited laboratory, as testing done anywhere else may not be admissible by law.  

If the court makes an affirmative determination of paternity, it issues a decree establishing paternity. This grants parental rights under Indiana law. The court will also make determinations regarding legal and physical custody arrangements using the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, as well as each parent’s economic responsibility based on Indiana child support laws. In some cases, a father may be ordered by the court to begin retroactively providing child support, either to the date the paternity case was filed or to the date of the child’s birth. 

The Timeline for Establishing Paternity in Indiana 

If paternity is not established by marriage or the joint filing of a paternity affidavit at birth, any action filed to determine paternity, by either the putative father or the mother, must occur within two years of the child’s birth date. However, there are exceptions to the time limitation for filing a paternity action in Indiana. The time limit can be waived at the request of the mother and father, and they can jointly file a paternity affidavit with the Indiana State Department of Health, as long as the child is under the age of 18.  

If the mother and putative father are not in agreement on paternity, the two-year time limit can only be extended under the following conditions:  

  • Child support has been provided by the putative father 
  • An explicit acknowledgment of paternity has been made in writing 
  • At the time of the child’s birth, the father was ruled incompetent There was an inability to serve either the mother or putative father with summons within the two-year period 

The Importance of Paternity 

In the absence of established paternity, protective orders, or another intervention the mother has the right to sole custody of the child. However, establishing paternity in Indiana bestows the following Indiana paternity rights: 

  • Custody and visitation 
  • Establishing and maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship 
  • The discipline of the child 
  • Making decisions about healthcare and medical issues 
  • Making decisions regarding where the child attends school 
  • Making decisions concerning the child’s place of residence 
  • Making decisions about religious training and affiliations 
  • Access to medical, school, and other private records 

Furthermore, in accordance with Indiana child support laws and other regulations, a father with established paternity is obligated to provide for the child’s needs. This could include basic needs, like food, clothing, and shelter. It may also include more advanced needs, like health insurance, medical care, quality education, and emotional well-being.  

The rights bestowed from the establishment of paternity even extend to the child. In relation to the legal father, a child has the right to benefits derived from their father’s life and health insurance, the right to inheritance, and the right to access their social security and veteran’s benefits, in the case of their father’s death. 

Questions about Paternity in Indiana? We Can Help.  

If you are considering establishing paternity in Indiana, you should take the time to fully understand your options. If you would like to discuss this with an attorney, an attorney from our family law team can sit down with you for a free case evaluation. We will use this opportunity to evaluate and explain the legal landscape as it pertains to your specific paternity situation. We’ll also discuss the various hurdles you encounter, and everything else you can expect during the process of establishing paternity in Indiana.

At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, we are known as skilled litigators who pursue the best possible resultsfor every client. When you work with us, you will have the experience and knowledge of a committed Indiana paternity lawyer on your side. Call us today at (317) 648-9560 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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