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Fathers, Mothers, and Children

A guide to establishing paternity.

Parenting is a Partnership

Children have the right to obtain support from both parents. Children need their parents to work together to provide support and love. This is true even when the parents are not married to one another.
If the parents of a child were not married when the child was born, they need to establish paternity. Paternity means fatherhood. To establish paternity is to establish fatherhood - to legally name a child's father. Your county child support enforcement agency (CSEA) can help you establish fatherhood for your child.

Why is it important to establish paternity?

Establishing paternity is important to a child's sense of self. Every child should know who his or her father is.


Establishing paternity makes it easier for a father to give the support and care his child should have.


Establishing paternity makes it easier to find out about medical problems that may run in the family. Also, establishing paternity shows a father has the right to get health care for his child in an emergency.


Establishing paternity makes it easier for a father to help his child if the father becomes disabled or dies. The child could get help from the father's Social Security or veteran benefits, or from an inheritance.

How is PATERNITY established?

There are several ways to establish paternity. The law will regard a man as the child's father if:

  • The child is born while the mother is married to the man.

  • The child is born within 300 days after the marriage between the mother and the man ends.

  • The man and the mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity, stating that the man is the father.

  • The man, the child, and the child's mother take part in genetic tests. The tests show there is at least a 99.95 percent probability that the man is the child's father.

If the law regards a man as the child's father, the man has a duty to support his child.
The man may not agree that he is the child's father. The CSEA or the court will look into the matter. If they decided he is the father, they can establish fatherhood by getting a paternity order. A paternity order is a finding by a CSEA or court saying that the man is the child's father.

What do I need to do?

Talk to your CSEA worker. He or she can tell you if you need to establish paternity.Click to go to top of page

What if more than one man could be the father?

Your CSEA or the court can help you get DNA tests.
A sample of tissue is rubbed off the inside the cheek using a small sponge (Mom, the child, and all possible fathers are tested). The samples are compared to see who is the child's father. Your CSEA usually gets the results of the testing in three or four weeks. The tests are very reliable and will be used to prove who the child's father is.

Who do I ask about the tests?

Ask your CSEA worker.

Who pays for the tests?

Usually, the CSEA pays for the tests. In very rare circumstances the alleged father may have to pay.

What happens after the tests show who the child's father is?

The paperwork is finished to establish fatherhood. The CSEA may send the father a notice saying he must pay child support.

Mothers - Questions you may have
What if the father and I are getting along and he's helping me take care of the baby?

Paternity should still be established, he is not the legal father until this is done.

What if the father has no job?

Paternity should still be established. If the father has no job and is not in school, your CSEA can order him to get a job so he can pay child support. Your CSEA can collect support due now. It can also collect any past due support that has built up.

What if the father is not 18 yet?Click to go to top of page

Paternity should still be established. The father can be ordered to pay child support despite his age. Sometimes, the father's parents can be ordered to pay child support as well..

What if the father is in school and has no money or is in jail?

Paternity should still be established. When the father gets a job after getting out of school or jail, your CSEA can collect child support..

What if I am not sure who the father is?

Your CSEA worker will ask you questions about who might be the child's father. Some of these questions may embarrass you or be hard to answer. Answer the questions with as many details as you can. Your answers will help your worker find the man or men who could be your child's father. Then, Genetic tests can be done. Don't name a man as the father of your child if you know he is not. This is against the law.

What if I go on public assistance?

You will have to cooperate in naming the child's father to receive public assistance.

What if I'm afraid the child's father will hurt me or my child? I still have to cooperate to get welfare?

Tell your CSEA worker if you have this problem. Your worker will ask you to show good cause. This means that you have good cause to believe if you name the father you or the child would be in danger.

Will the father have to help cover my child's medical bills?

After you have established paternity, CSEA will pursue medical support for your child.

I want to know more about the genetic tests. How old must my baby be?

Testing can be done any time after your child is born.

Will the test hurt my baby?

No, the sample is taken by rubbing a buccal swab ( a small sponge on the end of a short plastic stick) on the inside of the cheek.

How long does it take?

Collecting the samples is done quickly. Even with the paperwork, the whole process takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Can I establish fatherhood if the child's father moves to another state?

Yes, but it may be harder and take more time. If the father is still in Ohio, talk to your CSEA worker right away. The best time to establish fatherhood is when both parents are living in Ohio. Click to go to top of page

After I have established fatherhood, can the father ask for custody of the child?

The child support agency has no authority over custody issues.

Why should I establish fatherhood now?

The sooner a father begins to support the child, the more likely he will keep doing so.
When you wait, you take a chance. You don't know what might happen in the future. The father might move and you might not be able to find him. The father could die. Your child may not get any inheritance or other support. You need to make sure your child will have support from both parents. 

Fathers - Questions you may have
Do I have to pay child support?

Yes - after you are legally named as the father, you have a duty to support the child. You need to help with the costs of raising a child, including medical bills.

What if I'm in school?

You still have a duty to support your child.

What if the mother marries someone else?

You still have a duty to support your child. You will always have the duty to support your child and rights to your child unless a court rules differently.

Can I be named as a father if I'm not 18 yet?

Yes. You can also be ordered to help the mother support the child, despite your age. Sometimes, your parents may be ordered to pay support for your child as well.

Can the mother name me as the father if I live in another state?

Yes. Every state has child support laws. These laws let the mother prove you are the father even if you live in another state. Click to go to top of page

Can I ask for custody of my child?
The CSEA is responsible for establishing paternity and support, matters of custody are not within our authority.
How does it help me to establish paternity?

Establishing paternity is the first necessary step in asserting your rights as a parent.

If you have problems
or need more information contact:
Office of Child Support Enforcement
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
30 East Broad Street, 31st Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43266-0423
Phone: (800) 686-1556

If you have a hearing problem:
Phone: (614) 752-3951

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