Understanding Paternity Cases

What is Paternity?

Establishing paternity is the process of establishing the legal fatherhood of a child.

In Maryland:

If the mother is married at the time of conception or birth of a child, the law presumes her husband is the child’s legal father even though he may not be the child’s birth father.

If the mother is not married when the child is born, paternity can be established either through a court proceeding or by both parents signing an Affidavit of Parentage.

An unmarried mother or an unmarried father who have minor children together may file a paternity case. Through this action, the Court will determine paternity (or non-paternity if the father is found not to be the biological father of the minor children), and issue custody and visitation as well as child support orders.

NOTE: The Court does not provide paternity forms.

Legal Reference

Maryland Code, Family Law, Title 5. Children, Subtitle 10. Paternity Proceedings

Basic Steps in Establishing Paternity

Once you, as a parent, have considered all the topics involving family cases, and you or your attorney has taken steps to file a family case, the other party must be served with a Summons. The served parent must then file an Answer. The Answer indicates how the served party would prefer to deal with paternity decisions.

If the served parent files an Answer, the case will then proceed as either a contested matter or an uncontested matter. The action is considered contested if the parties are unable to agree on some or all issues. The Court must resolve unresolved issues. The action is considered uncontested if the parties are able to cooperate and agree on all issues outside of court, and the matter can proceed to its conclusion by submitting the necessary paperwork signed by both parents for the Court's approval and signature.

If a person is established as a legal parent of a child, that person MUST support the child. It's a crime for a legal parent to fail to support his or her child. A legal parent also has the right to seek custody and/or visitation rights related to the child.

Paternity Filing Fees

$165.00 cash, money order, or check (payable to the "Clerk of Court").

Additional Paternity Resources

Maryland Department of Human Resources, Child Support Enforcement Administration

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