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What is Paternity?

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and child.  If a child is born during a marriage or within 10 months following the death of the father, then the husband is presumed to be the legal parent of the child.

In the context of family law, the issue of establishing paternity arises when a child is born out of wedlock.

When Do I Need to File?

For a parent, a Petition to Establish Paternity must be filed no later than two years after the child is born.  There are exceptions to this rule such as if there is an agreement between the parties to waive this limitation, but it is advisable to file a petition before the child is two years of age.


Custody and Parenting Time in Paternity Cases

The factors in evaluating which parent should have physical custody are identical to the factors utilized in a divorce case.  A discussion of these factors can be found here.

As discussed elsewhere on this site, Indiana utilizes the term parenting time in place of “visitation.”  In a paternity case, the noncustodial parent (most often the father, at least as of the first hearing) is entitled to reasonable parenting time unless it can be shown that there would be danger to the child’s health or emotional development.

In a paternity case, the mother will have sole legal custody, at least initially.  If after a hearing the court finds it in the best interests of the child, an order that the parents share joint legal custody may be entered.


Child Support in Paternity Cases

Child support in a paternity case is calculated utilizing the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.  A discussion of how the Guidelines are applied, including modification of support and emancipation, can be found here.