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What is Parentage (Paternity)?

In parentage cases, also called "paternity cases," the court makes orders that say who the child's legal parents are.

If parents are married when a child is born, there is usually no question about parentage. The law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother, so paternity is automatically established in most cases.

But for unmarried parents, parentage of their children needs to be established legally. In addition to establishing who the legal parents are, the court can make custody and visitation as well as child support orders.

The person who files the case to establish paternity is the Petitioner. The other party is the Respondent. The Respondent must be personally served with the papers the Petitioner filed. The Respondent then has 30 days to file a Response to those papers. If the Respondent does not file the necessary responding paperwork within 30 days of service, the Petitioner may request an entry of default. Once the default is entered, the paternity case can be completed without the participation of the Respondent.

If the respondent files the necessary responding paperwork, the case proceeds as either an uncontested or contested paternity case.

In an uncontested paternity case the:
  • Parties are able to agree on all issues
  • Judgment is prepared and signed by both parties, then submitted to the Court for signature
In a contested paternity case the:
  • Parties are unable to agree on some or all issues
  • Unresolved issues must be settled by the Court
  • Judgment is prepared based on what the judge ordered and submitted to the Court for signature

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