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“Establishing paternity” means saying whom the legal parents of a child are if the parents were not married when the child was born.

A child’s parentage must be established before you can get child support or custody and visitation orders. By filing the Petition to Establish Parental Relationship, you may ask the court for child support or custody and visitation as part of this case.

If you are unmarried to your child(ren)'s other parent, and you would like to make custody, visitation, or support orders, you need to first establish the paternity (fatherhood) of the male parent (it is rarely a question who the mother is!).  Paternity can be established in a number of ways:

  • Father signs a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity in the hospital when the child(ren) is born.
  • Father agrees that he is the father once a paternity case is opened.
  • Father does not respond to court papers and a default judgment of paternity is entered against him.
  • DNA testing is ordered by the parties, the court or the Department of Child Support Services
  • Various legal presumptions, such as holding oneself out as the father of the child, allow the court to "deem" the father to be the father.

To have the male parent established as father follow the instructions on Starting Your Paternity Action.

If you would like to get a court date to have child custody/visitation/support orders made you should do an Request for Order at the same time and have the papers served with the paternity paperwork. 

If the father has signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, a Petition for Custody and Support (FL-260) can be opened instead of a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (FL-200).

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