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How Is Paternity Established Under Rhode Island Law?

More than 50 percent of children born in Rhode Island do not have the name of their father listed on the birth certificate. Establishing paternity is the legal process of identifying the father of a child born to unmarried parents. Under Rhode Island law, parents can establish paternity in several ways, including:

  • Voluntary acknowledge at the hospital — Immediately after the birth of the child, the father may voluntarily sign an "An Affidavit of Paternity," which establishes a legal relationship between the child and the father and adds the father’s name to the birth certificate.
  • Voluntary acknowledgement at the Rhode Island Office of Child Support Services — The father can also voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing an "An Affidavit of Paternity" at the Office of Child Support Services. While the father’s name may be added to the birth certificate, the child cannot receive the father’s last name without going to court.
  • Complaint for paternity — If the father does not voluntarily acknowledge paternity, the mother can pursue a Complaint for Paternity through the Office of Child Support Services. For the mother, the process involves signing a verified complaint and affidavit. The father can respond by admitting paternity or requesting that a DNA test be performed. If he fails to respond at all, the court will find that he is the father of the child by default.

Rhode Island paternity lawyers can help parents who want to either establish or challenge paternity to protect their rights and the rights of their children. Once paternity is established, a father has all the same rights and benefits of any other father, from custody and visitation rights to child support obligations.

The mother of the child may file for child support and medical coverage once paternity is established. The court will calculate the proper amount of support in accordance with the Rhode Island Child Support Formula and Guidelines. The mother is not only eligible for future child support payments, but also past due liabilities for up to six years prior to the filing of the paternity complaint.

To obtain to child custody and visitation, the father must file a petition with the court. If the parents cannot agree to a child custody arrangement or visitation schedule, the court will determine what would be in the best interests of the child.

Paternity actions can be complicated and overwhelming. The Rhode Island family lawyers at Kirshenbaum Law Associates can advise you of your rights and guide you through the legal process.