Parentage is the legal relationship between a parent and a child. It includes both maternity (mom and child relationship) and paternity (dad and child relationship). When parentage is formed, it means that the person is the legal parent of the child. It also means that the person has certain rights and responsibilities like parenting time and child support.
If a person was married to a child's mother when she became pregnant or when the child was born, that person is legally assumed to be the child's legal parent. Otherwise, the person will need to establish parentage to become the legal parent of the child.
Parentage can be established in three ways:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP): Used when both parents agree who is the mother and who is the father.
- Going to court: Used when the parents do not agree about who is the mother or father. It can take a long time and it is hard to do without an attorney.
- Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) hearing: Used when a person is receiving assistance and paternity needs to be established. The parties may or may not agree who is the father of the minor child. It is easier than going to court, but it can take a long time. It only deals with parentage and child support. Parenting time and parental responsibilities will not be decided.
It is best to establish parentage as soon as possible. You can file for parentage up to the day the child turns 18, and in some cases later.
What about birth certificates?
Birth certificates are generally not a way to establish parentage. Hospital staff is only supposed to put a person's name on a birth certificate if that person is the legal parent of the child. A person's name should not be put on the birth certificate if they are not a legal parent.
Sometimes mistakes are made. A person who is not a legal parent might be listed on a child's birth certificate. This does not establish parentage, so the person would still need to establish parentage through one of the three ways above. However, if the person agrees to have their name on the birth certificate, and then later gets married to the mother, that person becomes a legal parent of the child.
Updated: March 2018