Maryland law allows paternity to be established through a court order or through an Affidavit of Parentage form. In order to establish paternity, you, your child, and your child’s father may have to undergo genetic testing. Don’t be afraid. Genetic testing no longer means taking blood with a needle. The new genetic testing simply involves passing a swab along the inside of the cheek to gather a saliva sample. A representative from your local child support office can explain the process of establishing paternity to you and your child’s father. Your local office of child support enforcement can also explain the rights and responsibilities that go along with paternity and answer questions. If you are currently receiving Temporary Cash Assistance payments, your case will automatically be referred to your local office of child support enforcement by the Department of Social Services.
If the Father is Present:
Right after your baby is born, you can encourage the father to start the paternity process by having his name placed on the birth certificate and signing a simple legal form, the Affidavit of Parentage, stating that he is the baby’s father. You and the father can sign the Affidavit of Parentage (Affidavit) right after your child’s birth or while you are still in the hospital. You can also take the form home with you, complete it and send it back to the Division of Vital Records. If you choose to take the form home with you, each parent must sign the Affidavit in the presence of a notary public. You may contact the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene/Division of Vital Records at 410-764-3182 to request an Affidavit. You can establish paternity via an Affidavit up until your child’s 18th birthday.
Signing the Affidavit is your choice. Once it is signed, it becomes a legal finding of paternity. Keep in mind that before signing the Affidavit, the person named as the father has the right to request a genetic test or consult an attorney.
You can sign the Affidavit even if you are under the age of eighteen without getting permission from an adult or legal guardian. You may want to seek the advice of a parent or legal guardian before singing this form.
The hospital staff can help you complete the form free of charge. They can even act as your witness. Be prepared to show them your identification and give your social security numbers. The hospital staff will send the Affidavit to the Division of Vital Records.
If You Change Your Mind:
A person who has signed an Affidavit of Parentage claiming to be the parent of a child may rescind (cancel) the Affidavit by completing a Rescission Form for Affidavit of Parentage and signing and dating it in the presence of a notary public within sixty (60) days of the date the Affidavit was executed (i.e. signed by both parties). If more than sixty (60) days have passed from the date the Affidavit was executed, the Rescission Form will NOT rescind the Affidavit. If the Parents signed on different dates, count from the date that the last party signed.
After the expiration of the sixty (60) day period, the Affidavit can only be nullified by a court order, upon a finding of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.
You may obtain a Rescission Form by calling the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene/Division of Vital Records at 410-764-3182.
If the Father is Not Present:
Your local office of child support enforcement can help prove who the father is. They will need your help. They will need to know his last known address, what he looks like, where he works, his Social Security number and his date of birth. This information will help them locate him.
Once they locate him, they will need to prove that he is your child’s father. One way is if he signed the Affidavit of Parentage. It will also help if you can provide letters in which he claims he is your child’s father, pictures of him with your child, diaries, calendars, Mother’s Day or birthday cards or proof of any money he has given you or your child. If you have any of these items, you should take them to your local child support office.
If he does not acknowledge the child as his, the court can order a paternity test to determine fatherhood. Once again don’t be frightened by the thoughts of needles. The test only requires saliva samples from you, your child and the alleged father.
Paternity Establishment is Important!
Your child deserves all of the advantages in life that two parents can give. There are some special reasons to establish paternity.
Benefit For Your Child: Your child may be eligible for some benefits because you have established paternity. These benefits may include social security, veteran’s benefits, health insurance, life insurance and inheritance. Establishing paternity ensures you can provide for your child even when the unexpected occurs.
Family Medical History: Knowing the family’s full history of diseases, illnesses and birth defects will help your doctor if your child becomes sick. It’s important to know the father’s medical history for this reason.
Child Support: Your child needs and deserves both emotional and financial support from both parents. You may think that you can get by on your own and live without any help from your child’s father. But you may change your mind some day. A court can’t order child support without legal proof of paternity. It’s easier to get that proof today than to wait.