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Skip Navigation Links Home > How the Child Support Process Works > Step 3: Establish Paternity (Fatherhood)

Establish Paternity (Fatherhood)

  Step 3 - Establish Paternity (Fatherhood)

When a married couple has a child, paternity (legal fatherhood) does not need to be established, since the law automatically presumes the husband is the child's legal father. When an unmarried woman has a child, paternity must be established before a court will order child or medical support, or determine custody or visitation rights.

Paternity can be established with or without the father's assistance. If the alleged father fails to answer a legal complaint that he is the father, the court will name him the father by default. If the alleged father disagrees or contests the claim that he is the father, paternity can be determined after a court-ordered genetic test has been completed. If the alleged father signs a declaration of paternity or other legal agreement, the process of establishing paternity will be easier and faster, in most cases.