Establishing Paternity for a Child in Indiana
Whenever people hear the word paternity, they immediately think of Maury Povich and the infamous….”the results are in, and……. you ARE the father!” Of course that’s followed by tears, fists being thrown, cussing, and screaming, etc., etc.
However, what most people don’t realize is that paternity, the process of establishing that a father is in fact the biological or legally assumed father of a child, can be a relatively intricate process — whether it is through birth certificates, through the court system, by DNA, or established by common law, a relatively simple thing to verify can prove more trying than you think.
This blog is meant as an education tool for those attempting to establish paternity for a child they believe to be theirs, or, inversely, fighting someone claiming paternity over their child.
Paternity actions are civil proceedings (meaning filed in civil court through the clerk’s office) and the alleged father must be proved to be such by a preponderance of the evidence, or in layman’s terms, “it’s more probable than not that they are the father.”
I.C. 31-14-2-1 dictates that a man’s paternity may only be established by an action under I.C. 31-14, by petition, or I.C. 16-37-2-2.1, a paternity affidavit, which was executed in accordance with IC 16-37-2-2.1 and it has not been rescinded or set aside under IC 16-37-2-2.1.
Filing for Paternity:
Multiple Filings: Interestingly, one party’s execution of a paternity affidavit establishing himself as the child’s legal father does not preclude another man from attempting to establish paternity of that same child as well. It then takes the court to intervene to make a final determination.
Parties: The necessary parties to a paternity action are (1) the mother, (2) the child, and (3) each person alleged to be the father. Therefore, a person who has executed a paternity affidavit should join any other person who has alleged that they are the father as well through the affidavit process.
Venue: According to I.C. 31-14-3-2, venue, or where you can file, lies in the county in which the child, the mother, or the alleged father resides.
Timing: According to I.C. 31-14-5-3, one must file action not later than two years after the child is born, with few exceptions.
According to I.C. 31-14-7-1, a man is presumed to be a child’s biological father if (1) a man is married to the mother and the child is born during the marriage or 300 days after dissolution of that marriage, (2) a man and mother attempted to marry in compliance with the law, but it was void or voidable under Indiana statute, or (3) genetic test indicates that there is at least a 99% probability that the man is the child’s biological father.
However, these presumptions can be rebutted by direct, clear, and convincing evidence to the contrary. And, in fact, courts can get quite specific (and graphic/personal!). Often times courts need proof that the husband, or assumed father,: 1) is/was impotent; (2) was absent so as to have no access to the mother; (3) was absent during the entire time the child must have been conceived; (4) was present with the mother only in circumstances which clearly prove there was no sexual intercourse; (5) was sterile during the time the child must have been conceived; or (6) can show that the DNA test of another man indicates a 99% probability that the man is the child’s father; combined with uncontradicted evidence that the man had sexual intercourse with the mother at the time the child must have been conceived. (Yep, pretty personal, huh?)
Right to a DNA Test:
But if DNA is all it takes to rebut a presumption, why not require it in every cause, right? That’s not necessarily the case. Courts have held, based on I.C. 31-14-6-1, that a trial court has no discretion in ordering a blood test unless requested through petition. However, once a blood test is requested pursuant to a valid paternity proceeding, the request must be granted. So, it can’t be forced, but once someone attempts to start a proceeding and requests it, the court has no option but to order it.
Putative (or “Assumed”) Father Registry:
Most people also don’t realize that Indiana has created a registry for fathers that believe they have conceived a child but have not been legally determined as such through the courts. In fact, I.C. 31-14-5-7, states a man who files or is a party to a paternity action shall register with the putative father registry under IC 31-19-5 — meaning, you must do so to claim a right.
That registry is called Indiana’s Putative Father Registry. It has been established to determine the identity and location of an undisclosed putative father who may have conceived a child for whom an adoption petition has been or may be filed in order to provide notice of the adoption to the putative father. This is a legal mechanism to protect a father’s rights from having their child taken without their consent if a proceeding is initiated.
According to Indiana’s registry, a “putative father” is “a man who may be a child’s father, but who is not married to the child’s mother on or before the date that the child is born or who has not established paternity of the child in a court proceeding before the filing of an adoption petition for the child. A putative father whose identity is not disclosed by the child’s mother to an attorney or agency arranging the adoption, must register to be entitled to receive notice of the child’s adoption.”
As a safety precaution, it’s a good idea for any father who believes he may be the rightful, legal father of a child to register at the address below.
Putative Father Registry
Indiana State Dept. of Health
2 North Meridian Street,
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Fax: (317) 233-1289
IC 31-19-5-9 lists the information a father needs to provide for the registry while IC 31-19-5-10 has the actual form that must be signed by the putative father and notarized.
Paternity is Established, Now What?
So, you might be wondering, what happens after paternity is established? I.C. 31-14-10-1 legislates that upon finding that a man is the child’s biological father, the court shall, in the initial determination, conduct a hearing to determine the issues of support, custody, and parenting time. Upon the request of any party or on the court’s own motion, the court may order a probation officer to prepare a report to assist the court in determining these matters. This is done so quickly because the court realizes this may be the last time all of the interested parties are in the same place at the same time!
As anyone can see, the paternity process can be a long and arduous process. Therefore, it’s essential that you hire a family law attorney that understands how to properly pursue a paternity action, and they can follow through to protect your parental rights. Call the attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC at 317.870.0019 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . As former prosecutors and experienced litigators, we will fight for your rights, every step of the way. Call today for a free consultation.