Establishing Paternity

Why should I have paternity established? Establishing paternity can be important for a number of reasons, including completing the child's medical history, having the father's name on the birth certificate, getting health insurance through the other parent's insurance company, establishing a legal basis for child support and related matters, and may establish legal rights for the child in matters such as inheritance, veteran benefits, Social Security benefits, Disability benefits, and lottery winnings.

Who can request paternity establishment services from the Trumbull County CSEA?
The following parties may request the Trumbull County CSEA to establish paternity:
  • The mother of a child born out of wedlock or for whom paternity is still an issue
  • The legal guardian of a child born out of wedlock or for whom paternity is still an issue
  • The child born out of wedlock or for whom paternity is still an issue
  • A man alleging to be the father of a child born out of wedlock or for whom paternity is still an issue
How can paternity be established? There are three main ways in which paternity can be established in Ohio, namely, by a Paternity Affidavit, by an Administrative Order based on genetic test results, or by a Court Order.

What is a paternity acknowledgment? A paternity acknowledgment is a form created by Ohio to allow parents to acknowledge paternity of a child. The form asks for information regarding the mother, the father, and the child. The form must be filled out completely and correctly, signed by both parents, notarized, and sent to the Central Paternity Registry within 10 days from the time of the last notarized signature. The Central Paternity Registry will not accept a copy of the form, but rather requires the original form be sent in.

Can a paternity acknowledgment be completed in the hospital at the time of the child's birth? Yes. When the child is born, the hospital should speak with you regarding this form. If both parents are willing to sign and paternity is not an issue, the hospital should assist you in completing and forwarding this form to the Central Paternity Registry free of charge. The hospital will not be able to assist you if more than one person is alleged or presumed to be the father or if both parents are not willing to sign the document. If the Paternity Acknowledgment is not completed, the father's name will not appear on the birth certificate.

Can the paternity acknowledgment be completed at the CSEA? Yes. The same conditions for filling out the form at the CSEA apply that were present at the hospital, namely that no one else can be presumed or alleged to be the father of the child and both parents must sign the fully completed document. The CSEA will assist you in filling out the document, notarize the same, and sending it to Central Paternity Registry, at no cost to you.

What effect does a finalized paternity acknowledgment have? If an alleged father acknowledges a parent/child relationship, he is responsible for the support of the child. He has the same rights and responsibilities toward that child as any other father, including paying or receiving support, providing health insurance, having his name on the birth certificate, and pursuing custody and visitation. Please note that the CSEA does not assist parties with pursuing custody or visitation.

After a party signs the paternity acknowledgment, can he or she change their mind? Either parent may rescind the acknowledgment no later than 60 days after the date of the latest signature by doing both of the following: requesting an administrative parentage determination from the CSEA in which the child, guardian or legal custodian of the child resides and delivering a written notice to the Ohio Department of Human Services, Division of Child Support, Central Paternity Registry that includes the name of the child, the name of the county CSEA, and the date the administrative parentage request was made to the county CSEA. Both persons who sign the Affidavit waive any right to bring a court or administrative action to determine the parentage of the child other than for purposes of rescinding the Affidavit. After the 60-day period, the only way for either parent to rescind this Affidavit is to bring a court action to rescind within one year after it has become final. The Affidavit can not be used if any other man is legally presumed to be the father of the child.

What is the basis of genetic testing? The basis of genetic testing is relatively simple. A child receives one-half of his or her genetic markers from its mother and one-half of its genetic markers from its father. By matching the genetic markers of the mother and the child, a laboratory can determine which genetic markers the child received from the mother. It then attempts to match the remaining genetic markers of the child with the tested man or men. If the tested man has the required genetic information, he is a possible father. If he does not, he is not a possible father.

Why conduct genetic testing? Genetic testing is a quick and painless way to establish paternity. It is especially useful if there is any doubt in the minds of the mother or the alleged father as to issue of paternity.

How are genetic samples collected? The CSEA generally uses the buccal swab method by which a genetic sample can be collected by swabbing the inner facial cheek. This procedure is painless and relatively non-intrusive. The samples are collected by a trained technician. Trumbull County CSEA currently contracts with GeneScreen to collect genetic samples and performs genetic testing on the same.

In what way may the genetic test results come back?  A genetic test result may come back in one of three ways. First, the results may be 99% or higher. If this test result is returned, the CSEA will issue an administrative order of paternity and probably set the matter for an administrative support action. Ohio law requires a finding of 99% or higher to establish paternity. Second, the test results may come back 0.00%, in which case the CSEA would issue an administrative order of non-paternity and close the case out with that alleged father. Finally, the test results may come back inconclusive. This result is normally because one of the necessary parties did not submit a viable genetic sample due to a party's non-cooperation. Such matters are then referred for legal action.

How long does it take for genetic test results to come back? Genetic tests usually take three to four weeks to complete once the last necessary party is tested. The parties should receive copies of the test results and the administrative order arising from the results of the tests.

What are the costs for genetic testing? Trumbull County CSEA does not charge for this testing if it is a case it is actively working, either administratively or judicially.

What is a court order?  A court may also issue an order finding a party to be the father of a child. This order should also be sent in to the Central Paternity Registry.

What is a presumed father?
A man is presumed to be the father of a child when:
  1. The man and the child's mother are married and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days from the termination of that marriage (by divorce, dissolution, annulment or death) or after the man and the mother separate pursuant to a separation agreement
  2. When the man and the mother attempt to marry one another and it is later found that the marriage is invalid or could be declared invalid and either the marriage could only be declared invalid by the court and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of its termination or the marriage is invalid on its face and the child is born within 300 days after the termination of cohabitation
  3. When the man and the mother marry or attempt to marry and either the man has acknowledged the child in a writing sworn before a pubic notary or the man is required to support the child by a written voluntary promise or by a court order
  4. When an acknowledgment of paternity filed with the Division of Child Support becomes final
  5. Genetic tests ordered by a court or administrative body are performed and the test results indicate a 99% or higher probability of paternity.
Who is an alleged father? An alleged father is any man who had sexual intercourse with the mother 30 days before and 30 days after the probable period of conception.

Who is an established father? A man who has been conclusively found by a court or administrative body of competent jurisdiction and/or authority to be the father of a child. An example would be a finding of paternity contained in an order issued by the Juvenile Court, the Domestic Relations Court, the Probate Court, or the administrative hearing officer of a Child Support Enforcement Agency.

What if there are more than one presumed and/or alleged fathers? The CSEA will attempt to notify all presumed and/or alleged fathers and request their attendance at an administrative hearing along with the mother and child. At that time, a genetic sample will likely be drawn from the parties who are present and submitted for genetic testing.

What if the alleged or presumed father does not show up for genetic testing? Assuming that the father was properly notified, the CSEA would issue an Administrative Order of Inconclusiveness as the paternity process could not be completed administratively. The CSEA would then either close the case out or refer it to the Prosecutor's Office, who would then take the matter to the court for resolution of paternity, support, and related matters.

What are the time frames involved in getting paternity established through the CSEA? Once the Trumbull County CSEA receives a request from one of the parties or the State of Ohio to establish paternity, an interview is conducted with the caretaker parent. An interview is usually arranged within one month. The CSEA will use this interview, which usually lasts one half of an hour, to obtain information regarding the case and on all relevant parties. Once this is done, the investigator will refer this matter to the Administrative Hearings Unit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity Establishment

What does paternity establishment mean? Deciding legally, the identity of the father of a child.

I'm pregnant. How soon after the birth of my child should I have paternity established? As soon as you can. You can ask the social worker at the hospital for more information or contact CSEA directly.

If I am ordered to undergo genetic testing, who pays for this test? Genetic testing is paid for by the State of Ohio.

We were not married at the time our child was born, but now we are. Is he legally considered the child's father? No. Paternity must still be established through a legal process. Until this happens he is only the alleged father.

I'm receiving TANF/OWF benefits now, but what if my case closes while you are still trying to establish paternity or get a support order? Will you still work on my case? Yes. We will continue to pursue the establishment of paternity and support unless you tell us in writing you do not want our services to continue.

TANF/OWF Information:

Families actively receiving Welfare, Temporary Aid to Dependant Families (TANF) also known as Ohio Works First (OWF), have assigned their support rights to the Department of Job & Family Services. Monies collected while receiving assistance will be forwarded to the State of Ohio.