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Craven County Child Support Enforcement
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Craven County Child Support Enforcement

Paternity Establishment

What is Paternity Establishment?

Establishing paternity is the process for determining a child’s legal father. If the parents are not married to each other when the child is born, the child does not have a legal father.

Unless the alleged father becomes a legal father, the child may not be entitled to certain rights such as social security benefits, inheritance, insurance benefits and military benefits. Unless paternity is established, the father’s name will not appear on the child’s birth certificate.

Why does the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services establish paternity?

Fatherhood must be legally recognized to obtain a child support order. By law if a family is receiving public assistance benefits and the parents are not married, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) must establish legal paternity. A child support order cannot be established for a child who is born to unmarried parents, unless the alleged father acknowledges paternity or is proven to be the father. Paternity can be established by voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or by court order.

How Do I Make Sure My Child Has a Legal Father?

Marriage. If the parents are married and living together at the time the child is conceived, legal paternity is established when the child is born.

Affidavit of Parentage for Child Born Out of Wedlock. Unmarried parents can legally establish the paternity of their child by signing a form at the hospital, child support office or Office of Vital Records. Signing this form is the easiest way for unmarried parents to establish paternity.

Court Order. Paternity may be established by a court order.

How does my local child support office establish paternity?

If the child or children need to have paternity established, a caseworker will send a letter to the custodial mother for an intake appointment. Once all documentation is completed by the custodial mother such as her signing the affidavit of parentage and providing copies of the minor child’s birth certificate, the alleged father is contacted to see if he is willing to work voluntarily with the agency. He can either sign the affidavit of parentage or request DNA (genetic) tests. If the alleged father cooperates with the agency and wants to voluntarily acknowledge the child, the affidavit of parentage that the mother signed will be presented for his signature. If the alleged father questions paternity of the child, the child support agency can schedule a DNA test . Once the results are obtained and the alleged father is proven to be the biological father, he can sign the affidavit of parentage. If the alleged father does not cooperate with the child support agency, court action will be filed with the Clerk of Court to request the court order legal paternity or DNA testing.

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, a genetic test is the best way to be sure that the alleged father is the biological father of the child.

How does the genetic testing process work?

Genetic tests can be performed at your local child support office. Samples of cells are taken by swabbing the inside of the cheek of the mother child and alleged father. In some cases, a motherless draw can be completed if the mother is unavailable for testing.

What are the responsibilities of legal fathers?

Both parents are required to support their child from birth. If you child does not live with you, you will most likely be required to pay child support for your child.

What information is necessary to establish paternity?

To establish paternity, provide the following information (if known) to your local child support office:

  • Full name, address and phone number of the alleged father
  • Date of birth and physical description or photograph of the alleged father
  • Social security number of the alleged father
  • Child's birth certificate
  • Names or friends, relatives, organizations that may have information
  • Current or former employers' names and addresses
  • Income information such as tax returns, bank accounts, pay stubs, and property records
  • Listing of all legal actions relating to paternity and/or support including divorce and/or separation orders
  • Whether you have contacted an attorney regarding paternity and/or support

If the alleged father has denied paternity, it may also be helpful to provide 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.

Estimated Timeframes

Cases needing paternity establishment are processed within 90 days of locating the alleged father unless he cannot be served and service of process is needed.

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