In Ohio, issues regarding the establishment of paternity (fatherhood) can be complex.
Where conflicts and questions arise, paternity law can sometimes solve family issues or help clarify them. A child’s paternity is important because of:
- Issues of inheritance and rights to a father’s title or surname
- Issues of the child’s legitimacy
- Access to family history and medical records and health and life insurance coverage
- The biological father’s rights to custody or visitation and Obligations to support the child.
A Paternity Lawsuit
If an unmarried man is certain he is the father of a child, he may have to prove it by filing a paternity suit according to Ohio law. The court will then have to prove if he has legal rights to the child.
If the man does not acknowledge the child, or if there is some other reason paternity is in question, the mother may file a paternity action stating who the father is or not sure. The mother may name the person or persons she alleges to be the father and provide other information to the court about these individuals to try to determine paternity and order child support payments.
If the father is not married to the mother, he may voluntarily come forward and accept the paternity of the child in what is known as an “affirmation of paternity.” Both parties, the mother of the child and the father, sign the affirmation, which must be notarized. It is then sent to Ohio, which forwards it to various agencies such as Child Support Enforcement. The Ohio Registrar and the Ohio Department of Health.
Genetic testing is the most common method currently used in Ohio to determine paternity. One can buy a DNA kit at a drugstore, but Ohio courts do their own tests to establish paternity validly. This ascertains the test is more competently and correctly completed. Until a competent court conducts a genetic test, paternity is not established “in a competent jurisdiction,” according to Ohio law, and the mother remains the custodial parent of the child with no grounds to state otherwise.
A father must be shown to be the biological father of the child to have legal rights in the child. Once paternity is established, the father has all the rights and responsibilities of any father in Ohio. This includes custody and visitation, although the father must seek these rights through the court. When the child is born without the benefit of marriage, in Ohio, the mother is by law the “custodial parent.” However, the custodial parent can be changed by a court of competent jurisdiction once paternity is established.
Under Ohio law, the statute authorizes the court to award child support retroactive to the date of birth of the child along with birthing expenses. However, every person involved in a paternity action does not have to pay “back” child support. This is something a person faced with this situation should consult a lawyer about.
A man is “presumed” to be the biological father of a child under Ohio law if he is married to the mother of the child or he is divorced from the mother. Still, she gives birth to a child within 300 days after the marriage ends by dissolution, death, or annulment. Presumption of paternity is further defined in Ohio Revised Code 3111.03.
The presumption of fatherhood can be rebutted with DNA testing. If the child’s paternity is not disputed between the mother of the child and her spouse or another man alleged to be the father, then the man presumed to be the father is also the legal father of the child. When the paternity of a child is in question, and the mother is not married to the child’s father, there is no “presumed father” analysis and no automatic paternity through the laws of Ohio.
Do I Need a Family Law Attorney in Paternity Matters?
While it is not required to hire an attorney in a paternity case, things can get complicated, and the outcome of the matter could affect you and your child forever. Likewise, if you are NOT the father of a child and need to prove this is the case, you will have much to gain by obtaining sound legal advice and proceeding correctly.
A family law attorney will evaluate your case, advise you of your options and advocate for you in court, if necessary. In most cases, everything will run more smoothly because you will have someone by your side who knows exactly what to do. Slater & Zurz LLP law firm has several competent family law attorneys willing to help you with your questions and issues in the area of paternity and other family law matters.
Please call them today at 330.762.0700 and schedule a free initial consultation.