In the eyes of the law there is a wide variety of issues at stake when it comes to the paternity of a child. The nature of birth dictates that it is generally quite simple to establish maternity of a child, and thus mother’s are automatically granted certain rights over their child from birth. However, paternity can be much trickier.
A legal recognition of paternity is important for a number of reasons, including the child’s ability to inherit from his or her father, the father’s right to custody and visitation, establishing a father’s financial obligation to help provide for a child, providing for access to a father’s medical history in order to better prepare and care for the child, and much more.
In the State of Oklahoma, there are several different ways in which legal paternity is recognized or can be established. We have detailed them below:
Presumption of Paternity
As a married man in Oklahoma, the law recognizes a presumption of paternity if your wife has a child. This means paternity rights are automatically granted to the husband without need of further action when a married couple has a child. The husband’s name is included on the birth certificate, the child is granted the inherent rights of having a legally recognized father, and both husband and wife are given the rights and responsibilities inherent in raising a child that is legally theirs.
Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity
When an unmarried woman has a child in Oklahoma, the law does not recognize any presumption of paternity for her partner or anyone else. In such cases, an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form must be completed in order to legally establish paternity. This can be completed at the hospital at the time of birth, or at any point after. Completion of the form is completely voluntary, and it must be witnessed by at least one other person. When parents decide to complete the AOP at the hospital immediately following the birth of the child, the hospital will provide a witness and handle the filing process. If they choose to wait and complete the AOP later, they will need to find their own witness and handle the filing, which can be done at several different locations such as the Oklahoma State Department of Health or any county health department.
Paternity Lawsuit by Either Parent
Either the mother or father of a child can file a paternity lawsuit in order to have a judge adjudicate the legal paternity of the child. This would only occur if there is a dispute over the parentage or parental rights and responsibilities over the child. The two parties may elect to settle before the case goes to trial, or they may take the case to trial and allow a judge to rule on the legal and biological paternity of the child. In such cases, the judge may elect to require a DNA test, and if the test shows a 99% match or more, the judge will issue an order formally establishing paternity.
Paternity Lawsuit by Oklahoma Child Support Services (OCSS)
If a mother and child receives financial assistance from the state, this government body could file a lawsuit in order to establish the paternity of the child. OCSS works to ensure that both parents are providing proper financial assistance to their child, but they cannot seek a court order for child support without first legally establishing paternity of the child. The lawsuit would proceed in the same manner detailed above when the lawsuit is brought by one of the child’s parents.
Whether you are a mother or father in the State of Oklahoma, if you need legally guidance and advocacy in order to establish paternity for your child, please contact Hensley Legal Services right away.