When is establishing paternity necessary?


Courts cannot order child support for children born to parents who are not married until paternity is determined. A parent who receives OWF will be required to seek paternity establishment. The Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) can assist in establishing paternity. The Agency does not offer paternity services if:

  • there is a presumption that the man and the child’s mother are or have been married to each other, and

  • the child is born during the marriage or his born within three hundred days after the marriage is terminated.

Can paternity be established at the hospital?

If you are currently pregnant and unmarried, you can contact the social worker at your hospital for more information about paternity establishment at the hospital. The father will need to agree to complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit.


How do I request paternity establishment?

If you are receiving Ohio Works First (OWF) benefits, the County Department of Jobs and Family Services (DJFS) will automatically refer your case to CSEA. If you are not receiving OWF benefits, call CSEA to set an appointment for paternity establishment. After you complete an intake interview and are enrolled for services, CSEA must determine that paternity needs to be established. If so, you will receive a Notice and Order to Appear for genetic testing.


Can paternity be established at the genetic testing conference?

Yes. The mother and the alleged father may both agree to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit. Each parent then has 60 days to reconsider and file a notice to rescind the acknowledgment. If no written objections are received, paternity becomes final. If the parties elect to establish paternity, the parents can also change the child’s name.


What happens if either party refuses to sign the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit?

Genetic testing is ordered. Tissue samples (a swab used inside the mouth) are taken from the mother, the alleged father and the child. These samples are then sent to a lab where the DNA material is analyzed. If the genetic tests show a 99% or greater probability that the male is the biological father of the child, the CSEA hearing officer will forward the results to the Court for an order establishing paternity. The CSEA will send the genetic test results to you by mail.


If I am ordered to undergo genetic testing, who pays for the test?

Genetic testing is paid for by the State of Ohio. The Court may require one of the parties to reimburse the State for the costs of the tests.


How long must I wait before finding out the results of the genetic tests?

Genetic test results are usually available within six weeks.


Do I have to attend a hearing or appear in court after the Administrative Paternity Order becomes final?

When the order becomes final, the issue of paternity is resolved and there are no further hearings on that. However, there may be a hearing on child support.


I am receiving public assistance. Is it important to attend the administrative paternity conference?

You are required to appear. Failure to participate in the paternity process could result in a sanction. Your OWF benefits could be reduced or lost for a period of time.


What if the parties don't appear for the Administrative Paternity Hearing?

If either of the parties fails to appear, the administrative paternity procedure is ended. The CSEA legal department will seek to establish paternity in Juvenile Court.


Do I have the right to appointed counsel?

Yes, if you are unable to afford legal representation, you have the right to request appointed counsel to represent you during the paternity proceedings.


What happens at the pre-trial?

Either party may request DNA testing. The alleged father may stipulate to paternity. The court will set a hearing. Visitation may be established if the parties agree or the parties can request a hearing on visitation. The court may set another hearing to determine child support. The parties may be ordered to submit financial information to CSEA to determine of child support.


What if the alleged father fails to appear at the pre-trial?

If the alleged father was served with a copy of the paternity complaint, the matter will be continued. The CSEA will file a Motion for Default Judgment. The Court will schedule a hearing.


Do I have to attend the hearing on the Motion for Default?

Yes. If you are the mother, you will be required to testify as to the conception, birth and paternity of your child. If you are the alleged father, you could lose valuable rights if you fail to appear.


What will happen at the hearing on the Motion for Default Judgement?

  • The alleged father may stipulate to paternity or request DNA tests if the tests have not been conducted.

  • If the alleged father is not present, the mother will testify as to the conception, birth and paternity of the child.

  • The Court will either order a DNA test or rule whether the alleged father is the father of the child.

  • If the alleged father is the father of the child, the Court may set another hearing to determine the issue of child support.


This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.

Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012.