Establish legal fatherhood

When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, no legal bond exists between the child and father until legal fatherhood, also called paternity, is established.

Parents may establish legal fatherhood through three ways:
  • A simple and inexpensive acknowledgement process completed through Vital Statistics.
  • When the parents were married to each other at the time of birth or conception.
  • A court order establishing legal fatherhood. All orders created by Child Support Services contain information about the legal fatherhood of a child.
If parents do not wish to sign an acknowledgment, you may request that Child Support Services refer your case to a Child Support Services attorney. You may request genetic testing be included in the order established by Child Support Services. If genetic testing results determine fatherhood, Child Support Services asks a court to establish a legal father and order child support.

If an individual refuses to comply with the order and take a genetic test, additional court actions can be pursued to establish paternity through default or through contempt of court. Child Support Services may also ask the court to include costs associated with genetic tests and legal fees be paid by the legal father in the order.

Child Support Services may also ask the court to include costs associated with genetic tests and legal fees be paid to the father listed in the order.

About establishing legal fatherhood

Establishing legal fatherhood is an important way for a mother and father to show love and commitment to their child. This legal bond is important to families, even when parents do not live together.
  • When a child is born to parents who are married to each other, the mother's husband is automatically considered the child's legal father.
  • If your husband or former husband is not the father of your child, contact Child Support Services at 1-800-356-9868 to discuss options to pursue child support from the biological father.
In Idaho, when legal fatherhood is established, the father is listed on a child's birth certificate.

Either parent can ask Child Support Services to help establish legal fatherhood.

Benefits of legal fatherhood

  • Having a mother and father who love them helps children build healthy self-esteem and a sense of identity.
  • Children may build relationships with maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives.
  • Both parents can help make important decisions about how their child is raised.
  • Access to both biological parents' medical records may be important if a child inherits a medical condition.
  • If a parent dies or becomes disabled, the child may be eligible for financial benefits (Social Security, life insurance, inheritance benefits, etc.).
  • Parents may share the expense and experience of raising their child, even if they do not live together.
When the father of the child is not listed as the father on a birth certificate, contact the Vital Statistics agency in the state where the child was born for instructions to establish paternity.