How does an unmarried man establish paternity in Ohio? What is “paternity” and what legally defines a man as a “father” with rights under Ohio law if he is not married to the mother of the child at the time of birth? In Ohio, if the parents of a child are not married to one another at the time of the child’s birth, then the child does not legally have a father in the eyes of the State of Ohio.
What this means from a legal perspective is the mother has all rights of custody and decision making under Ohio law unless and until the father of the child asserts and establishes his legal rights as the father of that child. Technically, the mother has the right to deny access to the child, and to take the child and move out of state without the permission of the natural “father” of the child.
Unmarried fathers in Ohio must establish “paternity” in Ohio if they wish to have any rights associated with parenting time or custody of their child. In Ohio law, Paternity is “the legal determination of the natural father of a child.” Paternity in Ohio can be legally established in 2 primary ways:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement: The completion of form JFS 07038 “Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit.” Both parents must sign this form, and this is done at the hospital when the birth has occurred, or later at a child support enforcement agency or your local health department.
- Genetic Testing: If paternity has not been legally established in Ohio (a final determination of paternity), the mother, father or the child’s legal representative or guardian may request genetic testing. This is usually accomplished with a swab inside of the mouth of the baby and the father, but can also be a blood test or other method agreed upon by the parties.
It is important to note that establishing paternity is not the final step in establishing a man’s rights to a child as the father. The father, after legally establishing paternity in the State of Ohio, must petition the Court and seek orders establishing parental rights including parenting time (visitation), custody, child support, and the right to claim the child as a dependent on tax returns.
Protect your rights as a father. Call us to discuss questions of paternity at (614) 289-1227. I have more than 35 years of experience in Ohio family law matters, and will work to assert your rights and protect your interests as the father of your child.