What is paternity establishment?
If a child is born to parents who are
not married, the father must be legally identified before child
support can be obtained. This process is called establishing
paternity. The BCSE will assist the mother and/or child in
establishing paternity. The BCSE will also help a man who believes he
may be the father establish paternity if the child has no legal
Unless the father becomes a legal
father, the child may miss out on many of the things that children of
married couples take for granted. The child may not receive the
benefits that come with having two legal parents, such as Social
Security and inheritance rights. If paternity is not established, the
father's name will not appear on the child's birth certificate.
Why does the Department of Health
and Human Resources establish paternity?
Fatherhood must be legally recognized
to obtain a child support order. By law, if a family receives public
assistance benefits and the parents are not married, the Department of
Heath and Human Resources (DHHR) must establish legal paternity. Child
support can only be collected from or for a legal father.
How do I make sure my child has a
Marriage. If the parents are
married and living together at the time the child is conceived or born.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of
Paternity. Unmarried parents can sign a document stating they are
the child's mother and father to establish the legal paternity of
their child. This legal document, called a Declaration of Paternity
Affidavit, may be picked up at your local county DHHR office, BCSE
office, or the Office of Vital Statistics. The Affidavit may be
obtained and completed at any of the birthing hospitals or birthing
centers in West Virginia at the time of the child's birth. Signing
this form is the easiest way for unmarried parents to establish
Court Order. Paternity may
also be established by a court order.
What if the
alleged father is unsure he is
the father or denies paternity?
If the father does not admit
paternity or is not sure he is the child's father, genetic tests may
be ordered and a court order may be entered to establish paternity.
Genetic tests of the mother, child, and the alleged father can
determine the likelihood of paternity or exclude a man as a possible
father. Usually a father will admit paternity when genetic test
results show he is the biological father of the child. If the father
continues to state he is not the father, he may ask for a court
hearing. The judge at a court hearing listens to both sides and
considers the test results and all evidence. Other evidence, such as
admissions of paternity and previous payment provided to the child,
can also help establish paternity. Alleged fathers will often sign a
stipulated order for paternity based on the results of the genetic
How does the genetic testing
Genetic tests can be scheduled
through the BCSE. Samples of cells are taken from blood samples of the
mother, child, and alleged father.
How does the BCSE establish
When a case is opened, the BCSE will
take the necessary steps to verify location of the alleged father prior to establishing any type of order. This process may take
several months depending on the information available at the time of
intake. If the alleged father lives in the local area, the BCSE
will process a paternity or child support complaint when the custodial
parent visits the office for the first time.
Once the complaint is filed with the
Circuit Clerk's office, the BCSE must serve the alleged father with a
Summons and Complaint. Once served, the alleged father has 20
days to file an answer to the complaint with the Clerk's office. After
an answer is filed, the BCSE will prepare a Blood Test Order for
genetic testing, if requested. Otherwise, once the answer period is
up, the BCSE will schedule the case for a hearing. This is normally
the longest process as the local court docket is very heavy. It can
take an average of six months to get a hearing date. Once a hearing is
held, a temporary order is entered on the same day.
If the alleged father fails to file
an answer with the Clerk's office, the BCSE will proceed with a
default judgment order. This means that a hearing will be held without
the alleged father having filed an answer to the paternity and/or
child support complaint. The same process takes place in getting a
hearing. Once the hearing is held, a temporary order is entered on the
What rights do legal fathers have?
Once paternity is established, legal
fathers have the right to have a relationship with and visit the child
as the father and mother agree. You can also ask the court to
determine visitation and custody. By law, the BCSE may not assist
either the father or the mother with custody or visitation issues.
What are the responsibilities of
Both parents are required to support
their child from birth. If your child does not live with you, you will
most likely be required to pay child support and provide medical
insurance for your child.
What information should I bring?
To establish paternity, BCSE will
need the following information (if known):
Full name, address, and phone
number of the alleged father
Date of birth and physical
description or picture of the alleged father
Social Security number of the
Child's birth certificate
Names of friends and relatives of
the alleged father
Listing of all legal actions
relating to paternity and/or support
Whether you receive or have ever
received public assistance benefits
Whether you have contacted an
attorney regarding paternity and/or support
If the alleged father has denied
paternity, it may also be helpful to bring other evidence of paternity
such as records of money provided to the child, pictures of the father
with the child, and admissions that he is the child's father through
letters or gifts.
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