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Paternity

Paternity FAQs | Genetic (DNA)Testing FAQs | Birth Certificate FAQs | Forms

Paternity FAQs

What does it mean to establish or disestablish paternity?

Establishing paternity means legally determining the father of a child. Once established, the father's name can be placed on the child's birth certificate and he has legal responsibility for the child. Disestablishing paternity is legally un-naming a man as the child's father.

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Why establish paternity?

Establishing paternity can make a big difference in a child's health, financial outlook and sense of identity in knowing who both parents are.

Health: A child needs to know if he or she has inherited any health problems. This question can be answered only if the medical history of both parents is available. Also, it's often possible to obtain medical insurance for the child through the father's employer, union or military service or the Indian Health Service if the father is Alaska Native or American Indian.

Financial Benefits: A child has the right to financial benefits from both parents. These could include inheritance rights, Social Security, disability or veteran's benefits, Native corporation dividends, and other types of assistance. Unless paternity has been legally established, a child may not be able to claim these benefits.

Identity: It is important to a child's sense of self and security to know who their father is. Not knowing who their father is can make growing up even harder for many children.

Support: Both parents are required by law to support their child.

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Do you need to establish paternity if the parents are getting along and the father is financially supporting the child?

It is a good idea to establish paternity. Even if the father agrees to help support the child now, he may change his mind or become disabled or die. Some benefits are available to the child only if paternity has been established.

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How is paternity established?

There are four different ways paternity can be established:

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How is the mother's husband considered the father even if everyone knows he isn't?

Alaska law requires that the husband's name be entered on the birth certificate as the child's father if the mother was married at conception, during the pregnancy or at the time of the child's birth. However, the correct father can be listed on the birth certificate if:

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Who can file a court case to establish paternity?

The child's father or mother can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity in court. There are different versions of the complaint to establish paternity, depending on who is filing the case and whether the people involved agree about the paternity:

If the parents do not agree or do not communicate to discuss whether they agree:

If the parents agree:

You can also request to establish paternity when filing a custody complaint. This custody complaint is used when the parents do not agree or do not communicate to discuss whether they agree:

If the parents agree about paternity and the custody arrangement:

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Who can file a court case to disestablish paternity?

The child's mother, her husband or the biological father can file a Complaint to Disestablish Paternity in court. There are different versions of the complaint to disestablish paternity, depending on who is filing the case:

You can also request to disestablish paternity when filing a divorce complaint. This divorce complaint is used when the spouses do not agree on all issues or do not communicate to discuss whether they agree:

If the spouses agree about paternity and all issues in the divorce, they can file:

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How do you prove who the father is or isn't?

In a court case, you need to prove paternity by clear and convincing evidence. There are different ways to do this depending on the facts of the situation. Every case is different so you need to figure out what will work in your case. Some options are:

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Can you still file for divorce if you haven't dealt with paternity already?

You can file for divorce but it is likely that the judge will require that the paternity issue be resolved before the divorce case is finalized. If you don't raise the paternity issue and the husband is not the biological father, the court would treat the husband as the father when deciding child custody and child support issues. You can deal with divorce and paternity in the same case by filing:

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Can the biological father have a say about paternity in a divorce case between the mother and her husband?

Only the mother and her husband are parties in a divorce case which means the judge will only hear from them. If the biological father wants to establish himself as the father in the mother's divorce case, he, the mother and her husband can file together:

If the court grants the motion, the father will participate only for the paternity establishment issue.

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Can you file for dissolution and address paternity issues in the dissolution paperwork?

Yes. You can use the dissolution forms to deal with a paternity issue. If the wife and husband agree on all issues (ending the marriage, how to divide property and debt, custody and visitation issues, and paternity), you can file:

There is a different set of paperwork you can file when the wife and husband agree on all issues:

It is strongly suggested that you use Uncontested Complaint for Divorce form if you are filing in Fairbanks and at least one spouse is a military member because the court prefers SHC-PAC9A instead of the Dissolution Packet #1, DR-1.

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Can you get out of paying child support if paternity is disestablished?

Usually you can only get a court order to stop the child support obligation from the time paternity is disestablished or from the time the complaint to disestablish is filed. A court order disestablishing paternity will usually not wipe out arrears that have built up from before the case to disestablish paternity was filed. However, every case is different depending on the specific facts.

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Is the father required to pay child support after paternity is established?

Yes. A father has a legal obligation to pay child support for his child after paternity is established if he does not have physical custody of the child. The court can order child support that starts on the date the child was born, even if the paternity was established much later.

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Do you have to pay child support if you didn't know you had a child?

If you have been established as the father of a child, you are responsible to pay child support if you don't have physical custody of the child. The court can order child support that starts on the date the child was born, even if the paternity was established much later.

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If the mother gets public assistance, will there also be a paternity case?

If an unmarried mother applies for public assistance, she will be required to identify who is the child's father. If paternity has not been established, the law requires the mother to cooperate with the public assistance and child support agencies to help establish paternity. The Child Support Services Division (CSSD) will do genetic testing to determine who the biological father is and try to collect child support while the mother is getting public assistance. If CSSD establishes paternity, it will issue an order to the Bureau of Vital Statistics to add the father to the birth certificate. In that situation, there is no need to file a court case.

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Can you establish or disestablish paternity on a child that hasn't been born yet?

That depends on which court you are filing in. Some courts will allow paternity actions on unborn children when all of the people involved agree about who the father is. Other courts require that the child be born before filing a paternity action or addressing paternity in a divorce case.

If you want to get divorced before the paternity issue of an unborn child can be decided, you can file a motion asking to bifurcate the divorce for a subsequent determination of paternity. If the judge grants your motion, the judge can divorce the parties and address the paternity issue after the child is born. There is no guarantee the judge will bifurcate the issues just because you ask. The decision depends on whether delaying the final decree of divorce until after the paternity is decided would prejudice the parties.

Call the Family Law Self-Help Center Helpline for more information about paternity and a child that hasn't been born yet.

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How do you establish paternity when the father died?

This is complicated because the father cannot participate in the case and getting evidence to prove paternity can be difficult. It is possible to establish a father who has died and may be very important when the child is entitled to Social Security or veteran's benefits or inheritance. If you have evidence to prove the paternity by clear and convincing evidence, you need to name the defendant as the personal representative of the deceased father's estate. You should contact an attorney in this situation.

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If there is proof that someone is not the biological parent, can the court still find him a "psychological parent"?

Courts have the power to determine that someone is a "psychological parent" based on a mutual parent-child bond, even if he is not the biological father. A psychological parent is a person who on a day-to-day basis, fulfills the child's psychological needs for an adult through interaction and companionship. This adult is an essential focus of the child's life, taking care of the child's physical, emotional and psychological needs.

Establishing someone as a "psychological parent" can be very complicated. You should talk to an attorney if this applies in your case.

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What forms are there to establish paternity?

There are different versions of the complaint to establish paternity, depending on who is filing the case and whether the people involved agree about the paternity:

If the parents do not agree or do not communicate to discuss whether they agree:

If the parents agree:

You can also request to establish paternity when filing a custody complaint. This custody complaint is used when the unmarried parents do not agree or do not communicate to discuss whether they agree:

If the unmarried parents agree about paternity and the custody arrangement:

You may find it helpful to file with the Complaint:

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What forms are there to disestablish paternity?

There are different versions of complaint to disestablish paternity, depending on who is filing the case:

You can also request to disestablish paternity when filing a divorce complaint. This divorce complaint is used when the spouses do not agree on all issues or do not communicate to discuss whether they agree:

If the spouses agree about paternity and all issues in the divorce, they can file:

You may find it helpful to file with the Complaint:

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Are there forms to disestablish the wrong father and establish the correct father at the same time?

Yes, there are different versions of complaints depending on who is filing the case:

You may find it helpful to file with the Complaint:

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When paternity is established, can the father visit the child?

Paternity establishment and visitation rights are two separate issues. Once paternity is established, the father may seek visitation rights through the court if the mother is not willing to allow him to visit.

If paternity hasn't been established and you need the court to establish paternity, you can deal with paternity and visitation in the same case. There are options for forms to start the case.

You can file a custody case, stating what visitation arrangement you want, and ask to establish paternity in that case:

You can file a paternity case and ask for a custody and visitation order in that case:

If the parents agree:

If paternity has been established already (either by a court or the Bureau of Vital Statistics has corrected the birth certificate), you can file a custody case, stating what visitation arrangement you want:

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When paternity is established, can the father ask for custody of the child?

Paternity establishment and custody are two separate issues. After the paternity is established, the father may ask the court to order a specific custody arrangement.

If paternity hasn't been established and you need the court to establish paternity, you can deal with paternity and custody in the same case. There are two options for forms to start the case.

You can file a custody case and ask to establish paternity in that case:

You can file a paternity case and ask for a custody order in that case:

If paternity has been established already (either by a court of the Bureau of Vital Statistics has corrected the birth certificate), you can file a custody case, stating what custody arrangement you want:

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Where do I find out more information about different stages of a case or specific topics?

This website has forms and information for all of the stages of the case. You can also find information about specific topics such as divorce, custody, child support, property and debt division and dividing retirement benefits.

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Genetic (DNA) Testing FAQs

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing, more commonly called "DNA testing," shows whether someone is the parent of a child. A DNA sample is collected using a swab, similar to a Q-Tip inside the cheek to pick up cells. Samples are collected from the mother, the child and the person who may be the father. The testing is painless and the whole process takes about 15 minutes. Once all the samples have been collected, the result is ready within about 3 weeks.

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How do you get a DNA test?

You can arrange the DNA testing through the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) if you qualify. CSSD may tell you that it needs a court order to arrange for the testing, depending on how the father was named in the first place.

Contact information for the Child Support Services Division (CSSD)

If there is an open case with CSSD, it may arrange appointments to have DNA samples collected for testing. If there is no open case, CSSD may provide the parties with information about arranging the genetic testing themselves at a laboratory used by CSSD.

Do-it-yourself DNA tests are not acceptable as evidence in court. The court requires a qualified person to collect the samples and a qualified lab to conduct the testing and report the result.

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How much does a DNA test cost?

It costs about $51 for each person to have a DNA test by CSSD. Private labs charge substantially more.

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Who pays for a DNA test?

It depends on whether the DNA testing is happening through a court case or not.

If the testing is court ordered, you can ask the court for the payment arrangement that you think is appropriate and the judge will decide.

If the testing is not connected to a court case, it depends on whether you are arranging for the testing through CSSD or a private lab.

If CSSD orders the test, the State will pay the costs for the mother, the child and the man named as the father. If the father is identified by the tests, he will be asked to reimburse the State for the costs. If the man is not the father, he will not have to pay for the tests. If either the mother or the father challenges the original test results, he or she may pay for a second test.

If you use a private lab that is not connected with CSSD, you will pay for the testing. You may be able to share the cost with the mother but that is up to you both to figure out.

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If OCS did a DNA test showing who is the father, does CSSD or the court recognize that?

CSSD has access to OCS DNA test records. OCS and CSSD use the same lab, so CSSD will get a copy and establish paternity based on those tests.

If you have a court case, however, OCS, CSSD and the court do not automatically communicate about DNA test results and paternity. If you can get a certified copy of the DNA results from the agency that had the test done, you can submit it as evidence in a paternity case in court. It is your responsibility to tell OCS, CSSD or the court if you've had DNA testing already and to take steps to get a certified copy of the results to file in court if you have a case.

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Can you do a DNA test on an unborn child?

No. Courts will not order DNA testing for fetuses in the uterus. You have to wait until the child is born to do a genetic test to determine who the father is.

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What if the parents won't cooperate in getting a DNA test?

You can ask the court to order DNA testing in a divorce, custody or paternity case. You can ask that:

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How do you ask for a DNA test?

It depends on whom you are asking – the court or CSSD.

If you have a court case (divorce, custody or paternity), you can file:

If you don't have a court case, you can ask CSSD to establish or disestablish paternity. Either the mother or the father may complete an application for CSSD services (if there isn't already an open CSSD case) and a paternity affidavit. If the father isn't willing to sign a voluntary affidavit, CSSD may order DNA testing to prove fatherhood. If the father lives outside Alaska, CSSD can ask the other state to help establish paternity. See CSSD's FAQs about paternity and contact CSSD for the appropriate forms. Sometimes CSSD may decide it cannot do a DNA test based on the specific situation and tells the person he or she needs to file a paternity case in court.

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Birth Certificate FAQs

How do you add your name as the father on a birth certificate?

You may be able to fill out the Affidavit of Paternity, VS-16 form depending on the situation and provide to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

If there is nobody listed as the father, the father can be added at any time by the mother and father filling out the Affidavit of Paternity, VS-16 form. Both must sign the Affidavit of Paternity in front of a notary public or a witness. The completed form should be mailed or delivered to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The VS-16 form is not available on the internet but can be picked up at your local court or at the Bureau of Vital Statistics offices. The Bureau of Vital Statistics has offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

If the mother was married and the husband is listed on the birth certificate but another man is the father, all three people can sign the Affidavit of Paternity in front of a notary public or a witness. The completed form should be mailed or delivered to the Bureau of Vital Statistics who can add the correct father.

Sometimes, the Affidavit of Paternity form isn't acceptable if the parties have already signed an earlier Affidavit of Paternity that contains different information about the paternity. In that situation, you may need to file a court case that results in an order to change the birth certificate.

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How can you remove your name as father from a birth certificate?

You can have your name removed as father from a birth certificate if:

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Can you revoke an acknowledgement of paternity?

You can revoke an acknowledgement of paternity at the Bureau of Vital Statistics within 60 days of signing the acknowledgment form by filling out a revocation form that you can get from the Bureau of Vital Statistics paternity clerk.

If more than 60 days have passed, you cannot revoke an acknowledgment of paternity by filing a form at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Instead, you need a court order to disestablish paternity by providing clear and convincing evidence that you are not the father.

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What if you named the wrong person on the birth certificate?

It depends on the situation whether you can simply fill out an Affidavit of Paternity, form VS-16 with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, or whether you need to file a case in court. Sometimes, the Affidavit of Paternity form isn't acceptable if the parties have already signed an earlier Affidavit of Paternity that contains different information about the paternity. In that situation, you may need to file a court case that results in an order to change the birth certificate.

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Do you need to file a court case about paternity if the birth certificate is correct?

No. If the Bureau of Vital Statistics issues a birth certificate that names the correct father, the child is considered "legitimated" and the heir of that father. This means that if the child should be eligible for any medical or financial benefits connected to the father such as health insurance, or benefits based on military service or being Alaska Native or American Indian. Also, if the father dies, the child will be able to inherit and collect financial or medical benefits that the child may be eligible for such as Social Security Children's Insurance Benefits or military benefits.

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Where can you get a copy of the birth certificate?

For a child born in Alaska, contact the Bureau of Vital Statistics for instructions. They have offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

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Rev. 3 April 2014
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