Paternity Establishment

Paternity Establishment is Important!

Your child deserves all of the advantages in life that two parents can give. There are some special reasons to establish paternity.

Benefits For Your Child: Your child may be eligible for some benefits because you have established paternity. These benefits may include Social Security, veteran’s benefits, health insurance, life insurance and inheritance. Establishing paternity ensures you can provide for your child even when the unexpected occurs.

Family Medical History: Knowing the family’s full history of diseases, illnesses and birth defects will help your doctor if your child becomes sick. It’s important to know the father’s medical history for this reason.

Child Support: Your child needs and deserves both emotional and financial support from both parents. You may think that you can get by on your own and live without any help from your child’s father. But you may change your mind some day. A court can’t order child support without legal proof of paternity. It’s easier to get that proof today than to wait.

Establishing Paternity:

Maryland law allows you to establish paternity through a court order or through an Affidavit of Parentage form.  If the issue of paternity is contested and cannot be resolved through genetic testing alone, a judicial proceeding may be scheduled to decide the issue of paternity.  A representative from your local child support office can explain the process of establishing paternity to you. Your local office of child support can also explain the rights and responsibilities that go along with paternity and answer questions. If you are currently receiving Temporary Cash Assistance payments, your case will automatically be referred to your local office of child support enforcement by the Department of Social Services and you will need to apply for services.

Affidavit of Parentage:

Right after your baby is born, you can encourage the father to start the paternity process by signing the Affidavit of Parentage  while you are still in the hospital.  This action will allow the father’s name to be placed on the birth certificate. You can also take the form home with you, complete it and send it back to the Division of Vital Records. If you choose to take the form home, each parent must sign the Affidavit in the presence of a notary public. You may contact the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene/Division of Vital Records at 410-764-3182 to request an Affidavit. You can establish paternity using an Affidavit up until your child’s 18th birthday.

Signing the Affidavit is your choice. Once it is signed, it becomes a legal finding of paternity.  An Affidavit of Parentage cannot be executed if the mother was married at the time of conception or birth of the child.  An Affidavit should not be executed unless the mother is sure that there is only one possible father of the child.  Keep in mind that before signing the Affidavit, the person named as the father has the right to request a genetic test or consult an attorney. You can sign the Affidavit even if you are under the age of eighteen without getting permission from an adult or legal guardian. You may want to seek the advice of a parent or legal guardian before signing this form.

The hospital staff can help you complete the form free of charge. They can even act as your witness. Be prepared to show them your identification and give your Social Security numbers. The hospital staff will send the Affidavit to the Division of Vital Records.

Rescinding an Affidavit:

A person who has signed an Affidavit of Parentage claiming to be the parent of a child may rescind (cancel) the Affidavit by completing a Rescission Form for Affidavit of Parentage and signing and dating it in the presence of a notary public within 60 days of the date the Affidavit was signed by both parties. If more than 60 days have passed from the date the Affidavit was signed, the Rescission Form will NOT rescind the Affidavit. If the Parents signed on different dates, count from the date that the last parent signed.

After the expiration of the 60 day period, the Affidavit can only be nullified by a court order, upon a finding of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.

You may obtain a Rescission Form by calling the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene/Division of Vital Records at 410-764-3182.

Contested Cases:

Either parent can request genetic testing if the issue of paternity is uncertain.  The Child Support Enforcement Administration can request the parties appear for genetic testing.  If genetic test results indicate a probability of paternity greater than 99%, the parties can enter a consent order to resolve the issue of paternity and/or support.  If the issue of paternity and/or support remains contested, a court hearing will be scheduled to resolve those issues.