The Indiana Legislature substantially changed the paternity affidavit statute this last session. Both Mothers and potential Fathers should seek independent legal advice before the birth of the child or before signing an affidavit either at the hospital or if after more than 72 hours following the birth of the child, at the board of health.
There are more options now with the paternity affidavit. Generally, you are confronted with the signing of this affidavit soon after the birth of the child in the hospital. This is generally an emotional time and is not a time when such important decisions should be made. The decision is likely going to affect you and the child for the rest of your life. While the statute requires hospital personnel to give information, it is my experience that most people do not understand what they are being told at the hospital, even if they are given the proper information. In my practice, I have come across cases where the man believes he is the father only to learn years later he is not, but yet he must continue to pay support until the child is emancipated. There is only a short time period to challenge this decision and then it is difficult to reverse. There are also serious consequences for the mother and the child. Do you really want a child to grow up not knowing its true father? Do you want this person to have equal say with you in raising the child. Fathers, if the Mother does not want to give you equal say should you consider if signing the affidavit is right for you? DNA testing is now painless and can be done relatively inexpensively and quickly. Even if you do not sign the affidavit at the hospital, you both, if you agree, can go to the board of health to complete the affidavit.
The mother regardless of the terms of the affidavit is the primary physical custodial parent. If the affidavit is properly signed, the alleged father is granted parenting time pursuant to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. Some men sign the affidavit just to give the child his name. This is not the only consequence. If you check a certain box, the father is given joint legal custody which gives him equal say on major decisions of the child’s life. Even if you check the box for joint legal custody, that does not grant you equal time. In fact, if the three (3) of you do not go to have DNA test within 60 days and submit the results to the Indiana Board of Health, the joint legal custody goes away. If the mother does not honor the rights granted the father, then the father’s only remedy is to take her to court which can be expensive. You should also know that joint legal custody does not grant you more time with the child. You should review the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines on this page Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.
There are other issues that are not addressed here but that are important such as grandparent visitation (some call grandparent rights), inheritance, adoption and guardianships.
As with all other information contained on this website, you should not consider this legal advice and you should seek advice from a lawyer. Appointments may be arranged to discuss the matter with our lawyers but no advice will be given by email.