In law, paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a man and a child usually based on several factors.

Under the law a child born to the wife during a marriage is the husband’s child under the “presumption of lawful paternity”, and the husband is assigned complete rights, duties and obligations as to the child. The presumption, however, can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary under particular circumstances and within certain time periods.

An action is filed by an unmarried mother or by an unmarried father who have minor children together. Through this action, the Court will determine paternity (or non-paternity if the father is found not to be the biological father of the minor children), and make custody and visitation as well as child support orders.

Once an action is filed by a Petitioner, the other party, Respondent, must be personally served with specific paperwork. If the Respondent fails to file the necessary responding paperwork within thirty (30) days of service, the Petitioner may request the entry of default. Once the default is entered, the Petitioner can complete the paternity proceeding without the participation of the Respondent.

If the Respondent files the necessary responding paperwork, the case will then proceed as either a contested matter or an uncontested matter. The action is considered contested if the parties are unable to agree on some or all issues and the unresolved issues must be resolved by the Court. The action is considered uncontested if the parties are able to cooperate and agree on all issues outside of Court and the matter can proceed to its conclusion by submitting the necessary signed paperwork for the Court’s signature.

A finding of paternity can impose serious and important rights and responsibilities on the parties. A competent family law attorney should be retained.