Establishing paternity early gives a child the security of a paternal source of support and connection and avoids complications that arise in delayed paternity actions. In Indiana, a man can voluntarily execute a paternity affidavit provided by the hospital or medical facility where the child was born within 72 hours of the child’s birth. If both the man and the child’s mother sign the affidavit, the Indiana State Health Department will issue a birth certificate listing the man as the father, the child may be given the father’s last name, and the man will be the legal father of the child.
But what happens if another man is actually the biological father of that child? Paternity laws in Indiana allow for the disestablishment of paternity in certain circumstances.
A Case Applying Paternity Laws in Indiana to Disestablish Paternity
The Indiana Court of Appeals explained how the Indiana paternity laws allow the disestablishment of paternity in In re the Paternity of I.I.P. (Poteet v. Rodgers). In this case, the trial court had dismissed a mother’s petition to establish paternity in the biological father of her 5-year-old child when the legal father had already established paternity by executing a paternity affidavit. At issue in the case was the applicable interpretation of Indiana law with regards to establishing and disestablishing paternity.
An Overview of Paternity Laws in Indiana
Indiana paternity laws govern how to establish paternity in a child born outside of marriage. Under Indiana Code § 31-14-2-1, paternity may only be established by executing a paternity affidavit or by filing a paternity action. Indiana Code § 31-14-7-3 explains that “[a] man is a child’s legal father if the man executed a paternity affidavit . . . and the paternity affidavit has not been rescinded or set aside . . . .” Paternity affidavits can be rescinded if one of the following occurs within 60 days of executing the paternity affidavit:
- The man who signed the paternity affidavit requests a genetic test that excludes him as the biological father.
- The court finds there was fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact in the execution of the paternity affidavit and the man is excluded as the biological father.
Paternity actions in Indiana may be filed by the mother and the alleged father, jointly or separately, or by the child. There exist strict time limitations for filing a paternity action, however. According to Indiana Code § 31-14-5-2(a)-(b), a child has until he or she reaches 20 years of age to file a paternity action, and, prior to reaching the age of majority, can file a paternity action by his or her guardian, guardian ad litem, or next friend.
The time limit for a paternity action filed by either parent is much more limited. Under Indiana Code § 31-14-5-3, the mother and alleged father must file a paternity action within two years after the child is born, unless one of the following conditions exists:
- The mother and the alleged father waive the limitation period and file jointly;
- The alleged father has furnished support voluntarily or by agreement;
- The mother files after the alleged father has acknowledged his paternity in writing;
- The alleged father files after the mother has acknowledged his paternity in writing;
- The petitioner was incompetent when the child was born; or
- The responding party could not be served with summons during the two-year period.
How Indiana Paternity Laws Allow the Disestablishment of Paternity
In In re Paternity of I.I.P., the appellate court held that, while the legal father had established paternity by executing a paternity affidavit, which was not subject to rescission, the mother and biological father could disestablish his paternity by establishing paternity in the biological father, thus avoiding legal operation of the paternity affidavit. The court reversed the dismissal of the mother’s paternity action because, although neither the mother nor the biological father had filed a paternity action within the normal statute of limitations period, that is, two years from the date of birth of the child, the mother could have filed as next friend of her child or strictly complied with Indiana Code § 31-14-5-3(b)(1), (3), or (4), thereby extending the statute of limitations, and a material issue of fact existed with respect to whether the biological father provided support under Indiana Code § 31-14-5-3(b)(2).
Benefits of Establishing Paternity
Establishing paternity of a child born outside of marriage defines the benefits a child may be entitled to through his or her father. Such benefits include Social Security dependent or survivor benefits, Veteran’s benefits, inheritance rights, and health and life insurance benefits. The paternity laws in Indiana define how a parent can establish paternity to ensure the child is eligible for financial support and other benefits from the father.
Sometimes, a party may seek to disestablish paternity. While the Indiana paternity laws were not necessarily written with that procedure in mind, the courts have interpreted them to allow this change in paternity status in certain circumstances.
What If I Have More Questions About Paternity Affidavits in Indiana?
The preceding case illustrates one way of disestablishing paternity without having to rescind a paternity affidavit. Paternity issues can be complicated, and each case is different.
If you have a question regarding paternity laws in Indiana or modifying paternity in Indiana in particular, contact an experienced Indiana paternity lawyer at Camden & Meridew, P.C. You can learn more by calling Julie Camden at 317-770-0000 or completing our online contact form today.