If you’re part of an unmarried couple in Oklahoma, you lack a few of the legal privileges enjoyed by married couples. One of these is the “presumption of paternity,” which means that when two married people have a baby, the husband automatically gains the status of legal father. The same is not true for a biological father who isn’t married to the baby’s mother. In this case, you’ll have to “establish paternity” through Oklahoma’s legal system. Here’s how it works.
Why Establish Paternity?
When an unmarried woman gives birth in Oklahoma, she gets sole legal custody of the child. That means the biological father is missing certain rights and obligations usually owed to a legal father. Establishing paternity can grant benefits to the father, the mother, and the baby in different ways. Here are a few examples:
- Both of your names will be on the baby’s birth certificate
- Your child will have access to medical histories from the mother and father’s side of the family
- It allows the father and mother to help each other financially, even if they don’t live together
- Both parents can legally make decisions about the child’s well-being
- Either parent can go to court and request a custody and visitation schedule
How Do You Establish Paternity?
Besides marriage, parents in Oklahoma can take one of two methods to establish paternity. The first is to establish paternity voluntarily by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). The AOP is a legal agreement between the two of you stating that the father is your baby’s biological and legal father. When you sign it, you will waive (or give up) your right to genetic testing.
The voluntary process is simple, you can do it at any time, and it works like this:
- If you want to sign the AOP at the hospital or birthing center where your baby is born, you can ask the hospital staff for the necessary forms.
- You must sign the AOP in the presence of a witness. The hospital can provide you with a witness, assist you with paperwork, and make sure everything is properly filed. All of these services are typically done free of charge.
- If you don’t want to sign your AOP at the hospital, you can sign at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, your local child support office, or a county health department.
You can also establish paternity by going to court and filing a paternity lawsuit. Oklahoma Child Support Services (OCSS) can sometimes get involved in paternity cases, because their goal is to ensure that biological parents are supporting their children financially.
The court process will follow this general pattern:
- In order to decide if the alleged father is both the child’s legal and biological father, the judge may order genetic testing.
- The procedure for genetic testing in Oklahoma is done with a buccal swab. It simply involves rubbing a soft swab on the inside of the mouth. There is no blood test involved.
- If the test proves that the father is biological, the father will have to repay OCSS for the cost of the testing.
- The test must show a 99% or greater probability of paternity. If it does, the judge will issue a final paternity order, meaning you have finally settled the question of paternity. The court may also make decisions about child support, medical support, visitation, and custody in light of the paternity test results.
If you’re uncertain about signing an AOP, DNA testing, the court process, or anything related to establishing paternity, you should speak with an attorney. The knowledgeable family lawyers at Bedlam Law would be happy to address your questions and concerns. Give us a call for qualified legal assistance throughout the paternity process.