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A paternity case is an action to determine whether a person is the father of a child born out-of-wedlock. The goals of a paternity action and available relief are the determination of the biological father of a child, recovery of the reasonable expenses of birth mother if action is brought within three (3) years of child’s birth, recovery of all or a portion of costs for child birth, if the action is brought within five (5) years of the child’s birth, establishment and recovery of child support for up to five (5) years preceding date of filing the action, establishment of child support for the current/future care and maintenance of a child, determination of child custody, determination and/or establishment of visitation rights, and establishment or determination of the surname of the child.
Paternity cases are the only cases in which a parent, usually the mother, can obtain a court order for five (5) years of back child support. Other than this specific law on child support, child support in paternity cases is established in the same manner as in a divorce. For a more detailed over view of child support in Oklahoma, see the Child Support portion of this website.
A legal determination of paternity must first occur before any orders regarding child support, custody or visitation can be ordered. Paternity can be established by an agreement of the parents, by the signing of a paternity affidavit by the father or by a DNA test.
The local practice has been to encourage the alleged father to sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital shortly after birth of the child (assuming the alleged father was present at the hospital for the birth of the child). This, however, puts undue pressure on an alleged father to sign these affidavits immediately. The paternity affidavit may be rescinded by either mother or the “acknowledging father” within sixty (60) days of being signed. The rescission is accomplished by signing another DHS created form titled Rescission of Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. It must be executed before a notary public and then filed with the Office of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics located in the Department of Health building at 10th Street and Stonewall in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If the properly signed rescission is not filed with the Registrar of Vital Statistics within (60) days of its execution, then the paternity affidavit has the same legal effect as an order of paternity entered in a court or administrative hearing.
In contested cases, paternity is normally established by scientifically reliable genetic testing, such as a DNA test. DNA tests are generally done by swabbing the interior of the mouth of the alleged father and the child. These days, DNA tests are not generally done by blood tests. After filing a paternity case, a motion for DNA testing can be filed.
Paternity cases are filed in the county where the father (alleged or proven), mother or child lives.
If paternity is not disputed or has otherwise been established by “clear and convincing evidence”, then it is common practice for courts to enter temporary orders addressing custody, visitation and child support in the same manner as a divorce case. See the other sections of this website for more detailed information regarding custody and visitation.
The last name, or surname, of the child can be changed to the last name of the father. Courts will change the last name of the child to the last name of the father if the judge finds it in the best interests of the child to bear the father’s last name. There is no uniform standard regarding changing the surname of a child.
If you need to establish paternity or get an order for a child born out-of-wedlock, contact Byers & Associates to speak to an experienced attorney in all aspects of paternity laws in Oklahoma.