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When a child is born out of wedlock a paternity action can be filed to determine who the biological parents are of the child. Such an action can be filed by either the mother or the father. In a case where the father is unknown, multiple defendants, meaning potential fathers, may be named.


A paternity action begins with the preparation and filing of a summons and complaint. The summons informs the defendant(s) that he is involved in a legal proceeding. The paternity complaint states who the mother is, who the father or potential fathers may be, the approximate date of conception, the child’s birth date and the responsibility of the father to pay confinement costs. Confinement costs are medical bills associated with the birth of the child.


The most obvious issue in this type of action is establishing paternity. Paternity can be established through DNA testing which typically is conclusive with ninety-nine percent 99% accuracy. Once paternity is established, the court will then make a determination as to custody, parenting time and child support.


In the event that the mother is receiving Medicaid at the time of the birth, the state may initiate the paternity action to establish who the father is and set support. In addition to paying child support, the father will have to pay confinement costs (child’s medical expenses) and reimburse the state for benefits provided to the child.


Paternity actions can be complicated. Even when the prosecutor's office initiates the case, it is important to remember that they have a very heavy caseload and are interested in establishing paternity and setting up child support to reimburse the state. The prosecutor's office will not pursue custody or parenting time.

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