Establishment of Paternity
Paternity means establishing fatherhood.
Establishing paternity means that an individual has been legally determined
to be the father of a child. Over 50% of children born in Rhode Island are
born without the father's name on the birth certificate. The Office of Child Support Services can assist in establishing paternity.
Why is establishing paternity so important?
- Every child needs a father in his/her life for emotional and financial support.
- A child and his father have a right to a father/child relationship
- A child has a right to know his or her medical history and background
- A child has a right of inheritance
- A child is entitled to an ongoing financial support and medical coverage
- A child will have a sense of belonging and identity
- A child may be entitled to social security benefits and veteran's benefits
How is Paternity Established?
Paternity can be established as follows:
- The father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity of the child immediately
after the birth of the child in the birthing hospital. Hospital records
staff have been trained to explain the voluntary process and answer
any questions parents may have. A videotape entitled "The power of Two" is shown to the parents
informing them of their rights and responsibilities. Parents are also
provided pamphlets and a statement to read. They may sign "An Affidavit
of Paternity" adding the father's name to the child's birth certificate
provided it is done voluntarily and without coercion. They may also
choose the child's last name, provided the mother is not married to
- The father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity at the Office of Child Support
Services. The same process that is followed in the hospital is followed
at the office. The parents view the videotape, read the Statement of Rights
and Responsibilities and sign the Affidavit of Paternity. All forms and
pamphlets may be downloaded from this Web site. The father's name may
be added to the child's birth certificate but the child's last name cannot
be changed unless the parties appear before the Rhode Island Family Court.
- If the alleged father does not wish to voluntarily acknowledge paternity,
the Office of Child Support Services can file a Complaint for Paternity naming him
as the father. The mother signs a verified complaint and an affidavit
stating facts that support that he is the father. He has three options
when he is served with the paternity complaint:
- He can fill out the answer an affidavit and request that a DNA test be performed.
- He can admit he is the father at which point a Motion will be filed
to request that his name and information be added to the child's birth certificate.
- If he fails to answer he will be defaulted and the court will find he is the father of the child. A motion will be filed to establish support.
What about DNA?
When the non custodial parent is served with the paternity complaint, two
forms will be provided one is called an "Answer" an the other is
an "Affidavit". If the alleged father is not sure he is the father,
he should request dna testing. These forms can be downloaded from this Web site.
When the Office of Child Support Services receives the answer, a DNA appointment will
be scheduled. The father will not appear at the same time as the mother and
child. For your convenience, the appointment will be scheduled at the Office of Child Support Services on 77
Dorrance Street, Providence, RI. The State will pay the cost of the test
initially. If the father is found to be the father by the court, he will be
ordered to reimburse the State for the fee. The cost is $200.00.
The lab technician will swab the inside of the cheek of the mother, father and child's
cheek. Blood tests are no longer performed. Within approximately 30 days
the state will receive the results and either file a Motion to Dismiss the
case, or file a Motion for Summary Judgment to adjudicate the father based
upon the dna results. If the case is dismissed, the cost of the dna will
not have to be reimbursed by the alleged father.
Will the Father's name be added to the Child's Birth Certificate?
The father's name will be added to the child's birth certificate per Court
order. In a contested matter, if the Court decides after a hearing, that the
child's last name will be changed to that of the father's, it will be reflected
in the Court order. It is determined based upon the best interests of the
Is the Father automatically entitled to Visitation and Custody?
No. The father must file a Motion for Visitation and/or Custody with the Family
Court. A hearing will be held to determine these issues. Neither visitation
nor custody is automatically guaranteed simply because the father is adjudicated
or acknowledges paternity. The father and mother can always agree to a visitation
and custody arrangement.
If the father acknowledges or is found to be the father by the Court will
child support be ordered?
Yes. The state will seek an order for child support and medical coverage if
the child is on assistance or Rite Care. The mother also has a right to seek
child support and medical coverage is if she is supporting the child on her
own. She may also be entitled to past liabilities for up to 6 years prior
to the filing of the paternity complaint. The court may determine what the
child support order should have been for that period of time and order the
father to reimburse the mother in that amount.
Is there a statute of limitations to establish paternity?
Yes. Paternity may be established up until 4 years after the child reaches
the age of majority.