How long does a Father have to Establish a Paternity?

Different states have their own laws on establishing paternity. However, the main question that arises is how long does a father have to establish paternity? 

In many cases, if the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth, the husband will be established as the father automatically. But unmarried parents will have to either sign the Voluntary acknowledgment of Paternity or they can proceed to court. 

What happens to an unmarried father when establishing paternity?

Fathers who are not married have legal rights to their child only if they have Parental Responsibility (PR). They will only have legal rights after their names have been added to the birth certificate. The unmarried father who has obtained the PR will have the same rights and responsibilities as one who is married to the mother. 

A PR is obtained when the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate. Or they have gained a legal Parental Responsibility Order or a Parental Responsibility Agreement. Without it, a father cannot take decisions about the child.

This can be excluded in the case of an emergency or consultation over topics such as education, religion, etc. It also includes medical treatment, the name of the child, and whether or not the child will be put up for adoption. 

However, the unmarried father without the PR cannot obtain a passport for the child. Neither can they access sensitive data such as official documents, school records, medical records, etc. But the father will have to pay for the child maintenance even after they have established the PR. It is also known as child support. 

How long does a father have to file paternity?

The paternity should be filed within 2 years of the child’s birth. There are some exceptions in cases but otherwise, it should be done in that time period. 

Delaying the paternity, in some states, can have the father established as the legal guardian. And that could lead you to pay child support etc. 

What can a father do if he’s not on the birth certificate?

If the father’s name is not on the birth certificate but wishes to obtain rights and access to the child; they can establish the paternity and acknowledge it. This can be done by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement Form during the time of birth.

Or, if they have missed their window, they can approach the court. To start the court process, the father will have to file an affidavit of paternity and then send it to the court. This establishes that the father believes himself to be the child’s biological father. 


Following this, the mother will have to sign the paternity to corroborate the paternity of the child. If the mother does not comply with this, the father can ask for a DNA test. It will be ordered by the court. If the test comes out as ‘yes’, then the father has legal rights. This will be further discussed in court. 

The custody, Parental Responsibility, child support, and visitation are determined. It can be done with or without the court. However, that depends upon the relationships between the parents. If the court determines it, then it will decide on the interest of the child while accounting for the circumstances of both parents. 

Then, a birth certificate will be amended. His name will be added there, and he will be asked to sign the certificate. There is a small fee charged for amending and signing. And it may require a month to get the new birth certificate.

➡LEARN MORE: How to Determine Paternity without a DNA test?

What to do if you suspect you are not the father?

Do not sign the acknowledgment form when provided at the hospital. Instead, go ahead and reach out to an attorney.

Seek guidance and file for a DNA/Genetic test if you wish to establish that you are the father of the child. If you sign the form, you will be liable for the child. That means you will have to pay child support etc. 

Why is the father’s name not on the certificate?

There are several reasons why the father’s name is not put on the certificate. Such as the mother is not sure about the identity of the real father, the bio father could not be reached, the parents are not in a relationship anymore (as such the mother left out the father’s name from the certificate), etc. 

Both the parents, however, need to understand that the child benefits greatly from the father’s name on the certificate. The child may be entitled to inheritance, medical care, veteran’s benefits, life insurance, social security, etc. 

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