How do I determine the paternity of my child?

Children have the right to know both of their parents. Not only does evidence suggest that both a father and mother provide individualistic support to children, children may want parental information to better understand their medical histories and have access to child support, veteran’s benefits, medical insurance, and Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, women who have had multiple sexual partners may have some difficulty identifying the father of their unborn child.

Recently on our legal forum a mother asked, “I am about to have a baby, but I am not sure who is the father. I need to find out so I can collect child support. What are my options?”

Steps to Determine Paternity

Step One: Determine the date of Conception

The first step to identifying the father of your child is to determine when the baby was conceived. This can be done by determining when you ovulated, which is the day your ovaries release the egg. Given the differences in ovulation for women this may be simply an approximation, but most women generally ovulate 2 weeks from the date of their last period.

Given that sperm can only survive for about five days and the egg generally survives one day, women typically can only get pregnant from sexual intercourse in the five days before ovulation and on the day of ovulation. Women who have only had one sex partner within their conception window can generally narrow down the father of their child.

Step Two: Take a DNA test

If it’s impossible to determine the father of your child by taking the steps listed above, you will have to ask each potential father to submit to a paternity test.

For the test each man will have to provide a sample of their DNA. This sample is then sent to a testing laboratory. After the sample is tested, it will provide evidence about whether or not the man is the father.

State laws differ for establishing paternity, but if a DNA test shows a man is the father some states simply allow both parents to legally acknowledge this fact by signing the acknowledgment of paternity form.

Paying for the paternity test

Parents who are not receiving help from the Child Support Enforcement agency in their state can contact a private hospital or paternity testing laboratory to conduct the test. If Child Support Enforcement is involved the state may be willing to pay for the test or pay for the test and then seek reimbursement from the father after paternity is established.

Do I have to cooperate with the state to establish paternity?

Given that states have a vested interest in all children receiving adequate support from both parents; most states require cooperation from the mother to help identify the father if she is receiving state assistance.

Support required from the mother can include providing information about the identity of the father or if that is not known, providing support to determine the father’s identity.

Bottom Line:

Assuming you know who you have had sexual relations with over the period of time you could have potentially gotten pregnant, you should be able to establish the identity of the father. If you want the state to help you collect child support you will need to establish the paternity of the child. If you are receiving state assistance establishing paternity may be a requirement to receive certain state benefits, including Medicaid.

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