Despite the old nursery rhyme, love, marriage and children do not always occur in that order. It is increasingly common for couples to have children together without ever getting married. In cases such as these, in which the father has not legally established paternity, the Ohio Revised Code recognizes the mother as the sole legal guardian.

If you were never married to the mother of your children, Ohio law may not recognize your legal rights to seek custody or visitation. Therefore, the first step in seeking custody of your children is to establish legal paternity.

Methods for establishing paternity

One method involves obtaining a court order of paternity. This may be an option if there is a legal dispute between you and the mother, but it is not the first course of action recommended.

The easiest and quickest way for unmarried parents to establish legal paternity is by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit. You can complete this at the hospital at the birth of your child. If it is too late for that, however, you can also go to the child support enforcement agency in the mother’s county of residence or the local health department to fill out the paperwork.

Sometimes there is a question as to whether or not you are the biological father. If this is the case, you can have genetic testing done through the child support enforcement agency. If the test confirms that you are the biological father of the child, the CSEA can then issue an Administrative Order of Paternity.

Benefits of establishing paternity

Whichever method you choose for establishing paternity, the result is that your name appears on the child’s birth certificate as the child’s father. This establishes the legal relationship between you and your children. It gives you the right to seek custody in the event that you and the mother of your children choose not to continue your relationship. It also gives your children the right to maintain a relationship with you.