Paternity

 
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INDIANA PATERNITY OVERVIEW

            ďPaternityĒ is when a man is formally determined to be the biological father of a child. A manís paternity can be established only by his having executed a Paternity Affidavit in accordance with Indiana law, or by a formal paternity action.

            If a formal paternity action must be filed to establish paternity, the action is generally filed in the Juvenile Court of the county in which the mother and the child reside. The action is commenced by the filing of a Verified Petition to Establish Paternity, and a filing fee must be paid to the Clerk of the Court at the time of filing. Paternity actions are frequently filed in situations where a Paternity Affidavit has been signed because without the intervention of the court there is no formal determination of the fatherís support obligation or parenting time rights. Child custody can also be an issue in a paternity case.

            A paternity action can be filed by a mother (or expectant mother), by a man claiming to be a childís father, by the child, or in certain situations by the Indiana Department of Family and Children, or by the county Prosecuting Attorney. There are certain statutory time limitations after which a paternity action cannot be filed, all of which are linked to the age of the child, and which vary depending on who it is that is initiating the paternity action.

           Upon the motion of any party to a paternity action, the court is obligated to order the parties and the child to undergo blood or genetic (DNA) testing, which testing is to be conducted by a qualified expert.  The results of the tests and the findings of the expert constitute conclusive evidence if the results and findings exclude the man as the biological father of the child, and are admissible in all paternity proceedings unless the court excludes the test results or findings for good cause.

            If a man is determined to be a childís biological father in a paternity action, the court must then conduct a hearing to determine custody, support and parenting time, and payment of the motherís pregnancy and childbirth expenses.

            The courtís custody determination must be based upon the best interests of the child and the same statutory factors which are taken into consideration in determining child custody in a divorce case are to be considered.

            In most instances, support in a paternity action is determined by utilizing the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.  A fatherís support obligation may, in the discretion of the court, be made retroactive to the date of birth of the child, and must at least be made effective with the date of filing of the paternity action. As in a divorce or legal separation, court ordered child support in a paternity case is paid through the Clerk of the Court or through the stateís ISETS program, and frequently the child support is ordered to be deducted from the payor parentís wages via an Income Withholding Order.

            In many instances, parenting time in a paternity action is determined in accordance with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. This is particularly so with respect to paternity cases filed in Porter County.

            A man determined to be the biological father of a child in a paternity action will be ordered to pay at least 50% of the reasonable and necessary expenses of the motherís pregnancy and childbirth, including the cost of prenatal care, delivery, hospitalization, and postnatal care. However, the court will almost always take into consideration health insurance payments toward these expenses in determining the share to be paid by the father.

            In those paternity cases in which the parties are able to reach written agreements, those agreements are in most instances approved and adopted by the court, eliminating the need for a hearing, or at the very least limiting the contested issues that must be determined by the court.

            Like divorce and legal separation cases, the courtís determination as to custody, support, and parenting time is always subject to later modification upon the filing of a proper petition and upon the petitioning party meeting the statutory burden of proof required for the requested type of modification.

 

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Last modified: 03/25/13