Paternity Issues FAQ's

Frequently asked questions about Paternity Issues

Q. Who can get help from a Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA)?

A. Anyone receiving public benefits receives free child support services and is required to cooperate with the CSEA in establishing paternity and collecting child support. Families that do not get public benefits can apply for services with a written application. Some county CSEAs charge a $1.00 application fee, other CSEAs pay the fee for the applicant.

Q. Where do I apply for services ?

A. You apply at your local CSEA in the county where you live.

Q. Why is it important to establish paternity?

A. Children have the right to support from both parents. This is true even when the parents are not married to one another. If the parents of a child were not married when the child was born, they need to establish paternity. To establish paternity is to establish fatherhood--to legally name a child's father. Establishing paternity truly benefits a child. Establishing fatherhood is important to a child's sense of self. Every child should know who his or her father is. Establishing fatherhood makes it easier to find out about medical problems that may run in the family. And only a legal father can put his child on his health insurance policy, and get health care for his child in an emergency. Establishing fatherhood makes it easier for the child to obtain help from the father's Social Security or veteran's benefits, or from an inheritance if the father becomes disabled or dies. In addition, establishing paternity is a prerequisite for establishing a child support order.

Q. How and where can paternity be established?

A. Paternity can be established in the following ways. The first is through the voluntary acknowledgment process where a form known as an "Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit" is completed. It can be filled out at the hospital when your child is born, before both parents leave the hospital. It can also be completed at the CSEA or your local Vital Statistics Registrar (usually associated with your local health department). If a case is contested or if there is some doubt as to the fatherhood of the child, either parent may request that the CSEA conduct genetic testing to determine the father of the child. The CSEA will then order all parties to submit to genetic testing and will issue an administrative paternity order based on the outcome of the genetic test. For a paternity order to be established, the test must show at least a 99% probability of fatherhood. If either party fails to submit to the test or fails to submit the child for genetic testing, and this is a public assistance case, the CSEA shall refer the case to court.

Q. The father of my child does not live in Ohio. Can I establish paternity and get a support order?

A. Yes. Your local CSEA can help you establish paternity and get a support order, regardless of where the father lives. In some cases, this can even be done if he lives in another country.

Q. What if I don't know where the father of my child lives?

A. Your local CSEA has many resources which can be used to locate the father of your child. These resources can also be used to locate his employment and any assets he may have.

Q. Can the CSEA assist me with visitation and custody issues?

A. For all visitation issues, you must consult with a private attorney. Custody issues can not be addressed by the CSEA.

Q. I know if I am currently receiving OWF assistance, I must provide information to help identify and locate the non-residential parent, but what if I feel threatened that harm will come to me or my child if I do?

A. The CSEA can allow the caretaker of the child to claim "good cause" for not establishing an order, if such action may cause physical or emotional harm. The claim has to be verified with evidence from a court, medical office, child protective services agency, social services agency or other credible authority.

Q. If the non-residential parent is sending me money directly, does that count as child support?

A. No. Those payments are considered gifts.

Q. What if a health insurance company denies an application for health insurance ?

A. Assuming paternity and/or support has been established, state law says that no health insurer can deny enrollment of a child in the parent's plan based on the fact that the child: was born out of wedlock, is not claimed as a dependent on the federal tax return of the parent, or does not reside with the parent, regardless of the enrollment period. If an insurer fails to comply with these provisions, the failure can be reported to the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Q. What do I do if I have completed the paternity affidavit but I now think I am not the dad?

A. You need to contact the CSEA in the county where the mom resides to sign a rescission document as long as it has been 60 days or less since the affidavit has been signed. If more than 60 days but less than one year has passed since signing, you should contact a private attorney.