Indiana state law extends rights to the biological or legal parents of a child. If you are the biological father of a child, you have the same legal rights and responsibilities as the mother does, at least in theory.
However, many fathers in Indiana don’t understand the law and therefore fail to assert their rights. For example, men often think that the relationships they have with their children is dependent on the relationship that they have with the mother. If she no longer wants to have a relationship with you, then you may feel like you won’t get to see your child anymore.
Establishing paternity allows you to ask for parenting time and the authority to have a say in your child’s education, religious upbringing and healthcare. How do Indiana fathers establish paternity?
The simplest and most common means of establishing paternity relate to marrying the mother of the child. The state presumes that the spouse of a pregnant woman is the father of the child.
In fact, couples that have recently separated may still benefit from that presumption of paternity. The state assumes paternity when a man was married to a woman within 300 days of her giving birth to a child.
Through a voluntary acknowledgment
If you did not marry the mother of your child and now want the state to recognize you as the father, the two of you can fill out a voluntary acknowledgment form to add your name to the birth certificate. You can then ask for shared custody and will have the same responsibilities and rights as any other father in Indiana. Of course, the primary concern with this approach is that it requires the cooperation of the mother, which is not always readily available.
Through genetic testing
When you believe you are the father of a child but the mother will not willingly acknowledge you, you may need to involve the family courts. It is possible to request that the courts order genetic testing. The results of such tests are very accurate and can quickly establish your right to time with your child and an influence on the major choices about their upbringing.
Once you have formally established paternity, it is then a straightforward process to seek shared custody in the Indiana family courts. Understanding the rules that protect your relationship with your children can help you establish paternity and ask for parenting time.