Parentage (acknowledgement of paternity) means legally identifying the parents of a child. When parents are married to each other, paternity is automatically established following the child’s birth. When a child’s parents are not married, it is important that parentage (paternity) be legally established.
Parentage can be established through a court order, an administrative action or by a local county child support office. It can also be established when parents sign an Acknowledgement of Parentage. This document may be signed at the hospital after the birth of your child.
Why is establishing parentage for your child important?
- Identity – All children have the right to know both of their parents. When parentage (paternity) is established, both parents are listed on the birth certificate.
- Financial Support – Children may receive financial benefits such as child support, Social Security, inheritance, veterans’ benefits and life insurance.
- Medical – Children may get access to health insurance through either parent’s employers, unions or military branches.
Either parent may initiate parentage any time before a child turns 18 and, in some cases, up to age 21. Parentage can also be established if a mother or father lives in another state.
Once parentage is established and the parents are located, the local county child support office will work with both parents to create a child support order, if none exists. If the child is in foster care, a fee may be charged to the mother, the father or either parent to create the order. This is a legal process to create a child support order. It sets a monthly amount of money to be paid by the paying parent for the support of the child or by both parents if the child is in foster care.
A parent must be given proper legal notice before child support and parentage can be finalized. If a parent does not respond within the required time-period, a “default order” for support may be entered by the county child support office. This order is legally valid and enforceable.