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Establishing Paternity in Oregon

The relationship between parents and their children is a fundamental part of humanity. As long as people have been people, parents have cared for their kids and raised them to be healthy, happy adults. 

Unfortunately, questions about paternity are just as old. Everything from fuzzy memories to interpersonal disputes to parents wanting to avoid responsibility can put a child’s parentage in question. This is just as true today as it was a thousand years ago.

Luckily, today we have many methods for establishing parentage if it’s in question. Here’s why paternity matters in Oregon and how to prove it in different circumstances.

Why Paternity Matters

The legal relationship between parents and children comes with significant rights and responsibilities. Legally recognized parents are responsible for caring for their kids, making legal and medical decisions on their behalf, and supporting them until they reach adulthood. In exchange, they receive the right to spend time with and raise their kids.

That’s why paternity matters so much. Without establishing a child’s paternity, they will grow up with only one legal parent. That person has the sole responsibility to care for them. Until parentage is established, no one else is required to provide any assistance, including paying child support. Without that help, giving kids the attention and support they need is significantly harder. 

Furthermore, if a parent is not legally recognized, they have no right to spend time with their child. Only legal parents automatically receive the right to custody and visitation in Oregon. Recognized parents can bar other adults from interacting with their children until a legal relationship is established. If someone wants to maintain a connection with their kids, they must prove they should have the right to do so. 

These concerns make paternity a fundamental issue in most child support and custody claims. Mothers may need their kids’ fathers to acknowledge their relationship so they pay support. Similarly, fathers may need their paternity recognized to spend time with their children. Until parentage is established, custody and support cases can’t move forward.

How Is Paternity Established?

Because a child’s parentage has so much legal weight, Oregon can be established in many ways. In fact, in certain cases, paternity is granted automatically. For example, a birthing parent’s spouse is automatically added to a child’s birth certificate when a couple is married. This is true regardless of gender. Similarly, when couples adopt, both adults are placed on the adoption paperwork, regardless of marital status or other concerns. 

Sometimes, a person may be recognized as a child’s father without a biological relationship or an order. If someone lives with a kid and their recognized parent, acts in a parental role, and builds a familial bond, they may be treated as the child’s parent in court. 

However, this is not guaranteed, so it is not a reliable alternative to officially establishing a legal relationship. Here’s how parentage can be formally established outside of marriage and adoption.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity 

If it is not assigned automatically, the simplest way to determine parentage is by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. This is a form offered by the Oregon state government that both unmarried adults sign declaring that the non-birthing person is the child’s other parent. The person who gave birth signs it to confirm that their partner should be recognized on the birth certificate, while the other party signs to accept the rights and responsibilities this entails. 

Voluntary acknowledgments are most frequently signed when a baby is born. If the other parent is present during delivery, this is an easy way to ensure the birth certificate is filed correctly and the child has two legal parents from the start. 

However, these forms can be signed any time afterward, as long as the child only has one legally recognized parent and both adults consent. Filing later may require the birth certificate to be amended, but this is a relatively quick process if you work with an experienced attorney.

Assigning Contested Paternity

In some cases, parentage can be more complicated. Reasons for contested paternity include:

  • The father doesn’t want the responsibility of caring for the child.
  • The alleged father doesn’t believe he is related to the child. 
  • The mother doesn’t want the child to spend time with the alleged father.
  • The mother was married to another person at any time during the pregnancy, so that person has legal paternity.

In these situations, it will be necessary to begin a formal paternity case to resolve the dispute. The party who wants to establish parentage will file a petition with the court and the other person to open the case. The court will schedule a hearing and a DNA test for the alleged parent and the kid in question. 

The DNA test is the best and most reliable evidence for a parental relationship. When these tests are positive, paternity is almost always confirmed. However, if they come back negative, the petitioner must demonstrate that the alleged parent has some other relationship with the child that would grant them parental rights or the case will be dismissed.

Once parentage is established in some way, both parents are granted the same rights and responsibilities toward their kids. If necessary, they can begin a custody and child support case to determine how parenting time will be split and whether either one must pay the other support.

Skilled Salem, Oregon, Paternity Lawyers

Having two legal parents is almost always best for children’s development. However, paternity claims can quickly become complex. If you’re trying to establish your child’s parentage, the lawyers at Regele Law, LLC, can help. We have years of experience assisting families around Salem, Oregon, handle child support, custody, and paternity claims. Learn more about how we can help you by scheduling your consultation today.