Establishing paternity is the process by which a man is determined to be the legal father of a child born to unmarried parents. Importantly, this can give the same parental rights and responsibilities on a father that they would have had if the parents were married when the child was born. Until paternity is established, a father may not have parenting time and custody rights, or the authority to make decisions concerning their child's best interests if the mother does not agree.
Paternity issues can be complex and emotionally overwhelming. It's important to have an advocate on your side who is knowledgeable about the legal process and can protect your rights. At Litowich Law, our experienced family law attorneys will walk with you every step of the way. Providing high-quality representation and personalized attention in every case, we strive to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child.
Establishing paternity can be good for the child, the father, and the mother. Not only can it allow the child the opportunity to form an emotional bond with their father, but they may also be eligible to receive certain financial and medical benefits. Significantly, establishing paternity can help to ensure that a father's legal rights and parental privileges are protected. It can also impose child support obligations and other parental responsibilities.
There are various other benefits that can come with establishing paternity. In addition to preserving the child's right to receive an inheritance, they may also be entitled to the following from their father:
When paternity is recognized, it can also allow the child to access their paternal family health history. This can allow the child to be informed of whether they might be at risk for specific genetic medical issues.
There are several ways paternity can be established in Oregon. If the child's parents are married at the time of birth, Oregon law assumes the husband is the father — even if he is not the biological father. Oregon law also assumes the husband is the father if the child is born within 300 days of a marriage ending by death, divorce, annulment, or legal separation.
If the parents are not married when the child is born, paternity can be established voluntarily by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. This is often done at the hospital or birthing center. Once the form is completed, it must be signed, notarized, and filed with the State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics.
Critically, even if the parents decide to marry sometime after the child is born, paternity will still need to be established by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.
In cases where there is no acknowledgment — and paternity cannot be established voluntarily — a court proceeding can be started by either parent, the child, or by the state of Oregon. While paternity can be proven through documentation and testimony, the court may also require genetic testing to determine the biological father. If neither party objects to the DNA or blood test results, the court can issue a final paternity order and make child support, parenting time, and custody determinations.
Sometimes, there may be situations in which it may be necessary to set aside a paternity determination. In Oregon, there are several ways established paternity can be reversed. However, it's important to be aware that there are strict timelines in place to challenge.
When paternity is voluntarily acknowledged, either parent can take back the acknowledgement within 60 days after it has been filed if one or both is unsure that the man who signed the acknowledgment is the child's biological father. To undo voluntarily established paternity under these circumstances, a "Take Back of Paternity Acknowledgement" form must be submitted to The State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics requesting to remove the father's name from the child's birth certificate.
It's important to understand that there is a one-year time frame after signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity to request a genetic test if one was not previously performed. If more than 60 days have passed since the parents signed the acknowledgment, paternity can only be challenged in court based on fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact.
In cases in which a court order or judgment established paternity, there is a one-year statute of limitations in place to vacate the order on the grounds of mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.
A court order or judgment determining paternity can also be challenged if there is evidence of fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct on the part of the opposing party. A proceeding to set aside a determination on these grounds must be started within one year of discovering such misconduct.
If you are facing a paternity issue, it's essential to have an attorney who can guide you through the process. The family law attorneys at Litowich Law are committed to providing effective advocacy and skillful representation for paternity matters and a wide variety of family law issues. Located in Salem, we work with clients throughout Oregon. Call 503-850-7779 or email us to schedule an appointment to discuss your legal matter.