Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity means a person named as the father of a child has been legally determined to be the father. Establishment of paternity is necessary only when the mother is not married to the father of the child. Paternity must be determined legally before a child support order can be established. If there is any doubt of the father a genetic test may be preformed.


Both parents have a right and a need to know that they have contributed to the future development of their children.


Your child has a basic need to know who they are and who their family members are. By knowing both parents they will have a better understanding of their own identity and past. Establishing paternity will help to strengthen the child’s emotional growth by providing an added sense of security as well as aiding in their social and psychological development.

Your child needs to be aware of his/her parents’ medical history. This is important as your child may have inherited diseases or disorders which may not be detected at birth or in childhood.

Your child has the right to benefits from both parents. These may include Social Security, insurance benefits, inheritance rights, Veteran’s and other types of benefits. Your child may not receive from his father unless paternity has been legally acknowledged or established.

The law also requires that both parents provide for the financial needs of their child. By receiving assistance from both parents a child’s chances for success are greatly improved.

Fathers as well as mothers have the right to know their child and a responsibility to support them.


There are several ways that paternity may be established. A brief explanation of each of them is listed below.

Hospital Based Paternity: North Carolina provides the opportunity for a father to acknowledge paternity at the time of a child’s birth. This is a simple procedure whereby parents sign the Affidavit of Parentage form in the hospital. This allows the father’s name to be placed on the birth certificate, and also serves as a legal acknowledgment of paternity. Paternity may be established by signing this affidavit if:

  • The mother was unmarried when she became pregnant or when the child was born, and
  • The father is willing to sign an affidavit stating that he is the father of the child.

This Affidavit of Parentage is filed with the State Registrar (Vital Records) and legally declares the paternity of your child.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity: If you did not establish paternity at the time of birth, you may choose to do so at a later date. The mother and father sign documents acknowledging they are the parents of a child. These signed statements are presented to the court and an Order of Paternity is entered. This legally establishes paternity for a child.

Genetic Testing: If there are any doubts regarding the paternity of a child, you should not sign any paternity declaration documents. Genetic tests can be preformed to determine the paternity of a child. These tests will show that a man is not the father of a child or indicates the probability that he is the child’s father. The test results provide reliable information to aid parents and judges in parentage determinations.

Court Ordered Paternity Establishment: If the parents do not agree to voluntarily establish paternity, legal action may be filed with the court to establish paternity for a child. After all evidence is presented, a judge will decide if paternity should be ordered.