If you are the father of a child born out of wedlock in Ohio, establishing paternity is the only way to legally define your relationship with your son or daughter and is one of the most important steps for ensuring that you have parenting rights. Acknowledging that you are the child’s father opens the door to pursuing visitation, custody or other rights as a parent.

According to Ohio law, paternity is generally presumed for children born in wedlock or within 300 days of the termination of the marriage. Likewise, if you and the mother attempted to marry lawfully before the child was born, paternity is usually considered clear—even if the marriage is potentially invalid—as long as the child is born during or within 300 days of cohabitation.

The most direct way for you to establish that you are the natural father of the child is by voluntarily signing an acknowledgement of paternity. If you wish to contest the claim of paternity in either of the circumstances discussed above, however, you will need to provide strong evidence, including clear results from genetic testing, to support your case.

In cases where there is uncertainty, DNA testing may be necessary to ascertain paternity. Such testing can be ordered by the court or requested by either of the alleged parents.

In all scenarios, paternity must be established no later than five years after the child’s 18th birthday. If you sign an acknowledgement of paternity, it must be filed correctly. After you sign, you have 60 days to pursue the option to rescind your acknowledgement of paternity if you believe that the claim is erroneous or you signed as a result of duress or fraud. Thereafter, the acknowledgement is considered both enforceable and final.

This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended as expert legal advice.