Paternity - Frequently Asked Questions
Topics on this page
- How do I establish paternity?
- How do I disestablish paternity?
- Who pays for the test?
- How may I be listed on the birth certificate as the father?
- If I am under 18 and sign the Affidavit of Parentage, will I legally be the father?
- Can I sign an Affidavit of Parentage acknowledging paternity if I am married to someone else?
- What if she says I am the father, but I do not agree?
- What should I expect if I go to court?
- What if I do not cooperate after I get a Summons to appear in court?
- Can we change the child's last name and birth certificate?
How do I establish paternity?
Paternity can be established in 1 of 3 ways: by marital presumption, by court order, or by signing an Affidavit of Parentage at the time a child is born.
How do I disestablish paternity?
To disestablish paternity means to overturn or rescind all rights and obligations of the legal father. Your options to disestablish paternity will depend on how paternity was established in the first place.
Who pays for the test?
The party who requested the paternity test is responsible for the cost of the test unless that party prevails in the proceeding, in which case the court will assess the cost against the other parties to the proceeding.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 5-1029
How may I be listed on the birth certificate as the father?
In Maryland, if you were married to the mother when the child was born, your name will automatically be listed as the father on the birth certificate. If you and the mother are not married to each other, you can only be listed on the birth certificate if you have signed an Affidavit of Parentage or a court has found that you are the father.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Health - General § 4-208
You have the right to petition the court to have yourself declared the child's father. Contact your local Child Support Enforcement Administration to perform genetic testing on you, the mother, and the child. You will then have to go to court to be declared the legal father. Once you are declared the father, you will be responsible for child support. You may also petition the court for custody or visitation.
You can also file a Petition to Establish Paternity (or a Petition to Disestablish Paternity), and ask the court to order paternity testing without the involvement of the Child Support Enforcement Administration.
If I am under 18 and sign the Affidavit of Parentage, will I legally be the father?
Maryland statutes do not distinguish between an adult and a minor who voluntarily signs the Affidavit of Parentage. After you sign the Affidavit, you will be the considered the legal father.
Can I sign an Affidavit of Parentage acknowledging paternity if I am married to someone else?
Yes. A father can sign an Affidavit of Parentage acknowledging his paternity even if he is married to someone else.
What if she says I am the father, but I do not agree?
First, do not sign an Affidavit of Paternity if you are not sure. If you acknowledge that you were the father (even though you knew that you were not the father), you have very limited options to change your mind later. Note that you can rescind a signed affidavit within 60 days. After 60 days, you must show fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.
Second, you can take a simple genetic DNA test and most likely settle the matter.
If you take no action, the mother, child, or the government may sue you to establish paternity. If you receive a summons, you must appear in court (even if you do not believe you are the father).
What should I expect if I go to court?
If you do not believe you are the father and have not signed the Affidavit of Paternity, you may be sued by either the mother or the state. If the mother is still pregnant, the trial will not take place until after the birth of the child.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law §5-1025
After you receive a Summons to appear in court, you should find a lawyer to represent you, if possible. If you are unable to afford an attorney, the government will not provide one. See PLL's Get Help section for information about getting help from a legal professional, including free and low-cost options.
A judge will hear your case. If you were not able to obtain a lawyer, the judge must explain the nature of the proceeding so that you understand it. If you do not receive this explanation, make sure to ask for it.
One of the largest parts of a paternity suit is the genetic testing. The lab report will be received in evidence if definite exclusion is established; or if the testing is sufficiently extensive to exclude 97.3% of alleged fathers who are not biological fathers, and the statistical probability of the alleged father's paternity is at least 97.3%.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 5-1029
What if I do not cooperate after I get a Summons to appear in court?
After you receive a Summons, it is very important that you appear in court, regardless of whether you believe you are the father or not. If you do not appear court, there could be serious consequences:
- The court may issue a warrant for your arrest;
- The court may find you to be the father without your participation in the proceeding.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 5–1024
I am the biological father of a minor child and am in a relationship with the child's mother. The mother was married to another man when the child was born, but is now divorced. Can we change the child's last name and birth certificate?
Under Maryland law, the ex-husband is presumed to be the child’s father because the child was born during the marriage. The court can’t accept evidence to the contrary (such as DNA testing) unless it finds that it would be in the child’s best interest to disturb the marital presumption of parentage.
Read the case: Ashley v. Mattingly, 176 Md. App. 38 (Court of Special Appeals 2007); Kamp v. Dept. of Human Servs. ex rel. Duckworth, 410 Md. 645 (Court of Appeals 2009); Monroe v. Monroe, 329 Md. 758 (Court of Appeals 1993); Mulligan v. Corbett, 426 Md. 670 (Court of Appeals 2012); Turner v. Whisted, 327 Md. 106 (Court of Appeals 1992)
If you, the mother, and the ex-husband are all in agreement, the court is more likely to be willing to enter an order recognizing you as the father and changing the child’s name. That order could also direct the appropriate changes to the birth certificate. It will be more difficult if you, or the mother, or the ex-husband, objects.