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Establishing Paternity for a Child Born Out of Wedlock

Child Support and the Judiciary Bench Card

Published: May 8, 2012
Information About:
Other Public Partners, Courts
Case Management, Paternity Establishment
Guides/Publications/Reports, Promising Practices
Bench Card

Establishing paternity for a child born out of wedlock provides a child with access to emotional and financial support from their noncustodial parent including:

  • important interactions and relationships with both parents,
  • access to child support and to federal benefits such as Social Security benefits, and
  • medical insurance and health information.

For excellent links to the information most often requested about paternity establishment and for the benefits to children, mothers and fathers access https://www.childsupport.ny.gov/paternity_establishment.html#why.

Title IV-D of the Social Security Act requires states to provide core services including establishing paternity (Pub. L. No. 93-647, 88 Stat. 2337 (1975)), codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. Sec. 654(4)(A) (2006). In 2007, the non-marital birthrate increased to historic levels accounting for 39.7 percent of all births in the United States; also, the teen birth rate increased slightly for the second straight year (teen birth rates). In FY 2010, the child support program established 1.7 million paternities of which 1.1 million involved an acknowledgment, either in-hospital or elsewhere. For more information, access the FY 2010 preliminary report.

Generally, paternity is established through voluntary acknowledgments of paternity, or through administrative or court proceedings pursuant to the state’s paternity statutes. While not adopted in all states, the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) as promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws has provisions for establishing paternity. The original UPA was first introduced in 1973, redrafted in 2000 to comply with federal mandates, and amended in 2002. The Act contains seven substantive articles. Article 3 provides a non-judicial consent proceeding for the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that is the equivalent of a judgment of paternity for enforcement purposes. Article 6 addresses the nature, special rules and hearings for adjudicating parentage.

A profile of each state’s paternity laws and/or administrative rules is located at “Chapter H -Paternity” in the Intergovernmental Referral Guide (IRG), which is accessed by selecting the state you are researching, clicking Go, and then selecting the Program Category, H. Paternity.

For current information about the child support program, policy matters, state and federal office addresses, links to state websites, frequently asked questions, and links to related agencies, see the OCSE website. An additional home page website that may be helpful to judicial officials is the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), which provides judicial branch links to each state.