If you want to establish parentage, but there is no Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP), you must file a petition in court. The judge can then decide parental responsibilities (custody), including decision-making power, parenting time (visitation), and child support.
The following people can establish parentage:
- The biological mother
- Someone who believes they are the parent of a child
- The child
1. Fill out parentage forms
First, fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make 3 copies of each form.
2. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
When you file your forms with the clerk they become part of the case. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court.
- E-filing: The documents you want to file with the court have to be uploaded into the system. You will need to create an account. See E-filing Basics for details.
- Paper filing: If you are paper filing bring the forms to the clerk at the courthouse in the county where you are filing. Bring all your copies and the originals with you when you file. Ask the clerk to stamp all your forms. They will keep the original. Keep at least one copy for your records. See courthouse locations.
3. Tell the other party about your case
Take one copy of the petition and the summons to the sheriff to have them serve the respondent (other parent) with the papers. Keep a copy of the petition for your records.
If you do not give the respondent (other parent) a summons telling them about your case within the required time, the case may be dismissed because there was not proper notice of the lawsuit.
Learn more about how to serve a summons.
4. Go to your hearing
Before the hearing, prepare the Order for Parentage and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities by filling in the parents' names at the top of the order. The judge will complete the rest of the order at the hearing. Make two copies of the order.
Go to the hearing. If all goes well, you will testify briefly, and the judge will sign the order. Make sure you get two copies of the completed and signed order – one for your records and one to send to the other parent.
- If the respondent denies parentage, the judge may order DNA testing. You may have to pay for that testing, or the cost may be shared. The DNA results will determine parentage.
- If the respondent admits parentage, or that is proven by DNA testing, the respondent may then fight your request for allocation of parental responsibilities. You then have a contested case. A contested trial can get complicated, and you may want to get a lawyer.
Learn more about an allocation of parental responsibilities.
5. Notify the other parent of the order if they did not come to the hearing
If the other parent does not come to court, and the judge signs an Order for Parentage and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, mail the other parent a copy of the order, by regular mail.
Updated: February 2018