What is Paternity?

Paternity is another name for fatherhood.  Paternity law refers to the rights and responsibilities that parents have to a child who is born when the parents are not married (born out of wedlock).   Parental rights involve custody, parenting time, and the right to raise a child as the parent sees fit.  Parental responsibilities involve the obligations to care for and support a child.

Why Would a Man or Woman File a Paternity Lawsuit?

When a child is born out of wedlock, Indiana law provides that the mother alone automatically has all legal parental rights and responsibilities unless one of the parents files a paternity lawsuit.  A woman may file a paternity suit in order to obtain a child support order making the child’s father responsible for paying child support.   A man may file a paternity suit in order to obtain the right to see his child, have primary custody of his child, have parenting time with his child, or simply to find out whether he is the child’s father.  In cases where it’s not clear whether a man is the father or not, the court can order the man and child to take a DNA test to find out.

As a result, if you are a woman and want to obtain support for your child from the child’s father, or if you are a father and want to legally secure your parental rights with respect to your child, it is critical that paternity be legally established.

It is also important to understand that there are many events that may transpire in the future in which the establishment of paternity will be desirable.  Fathers, for instance, may want a say in how children are raised with respect to their educational and religious upbringing.  Conversely, if a father dies while the child is a minor, the child’s rights to an inheritance and social security benefits may be impacted.

How Much Will Child Support Be?

Indiana Courts base child support on a mathematical formula set out in the Indiana Child Support Guidelines and calculated on the Indiana Child Support Calculator.  To get an idea how much your child support should be, see the Indiana Child Support Calculator and enter the parties’ income and other information requested.  The calculator does not always account for all factors, so you may need an attorney’s help to make sure the calculation is fully accurate.

For more information, please see our page on Child Support.

How will the Court Decide Custody and Parenting Time?

When a Court issues a paternity order, it must say which parent the child will live with (the custodial parent) and how often the child will see the other parent (parenting time).  To decide who will be the custodial parent, the court listens to evidence regarding many factors including the children’s health and the children’s relationships with their parents and others in their home, community, and school.  Often, the focus will be on which parent is the primary caregiver.

The parent who is not the custodial parent is called the non-custodial parent.  To decide how much parenting time the non-custodial parent should have, the courts often order “guideline parenting time” under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, which provides a schedule for parenting time including every other weekend and extra parenting time in the summer and on holidays.  However the Courts are not required to order “guideline parenting time” and often order more or less parenting time or a different parenting time schedule than provided in the guidelines, based on the facts of each case.

For more information, please see our pages on Custody and Parenting Time.

How Our Office Helps in Paternity Matters

We help clients in to establish paternity, and in protecting and furthering their rights.  If you are in need of affordable representation in a paternity case, please call our office.