By Richard A. Mann, Mann Law PC
As family law attorneys and mediators, we often receive calls asking about people filing their own paternity cases. When asked if someone should represent themselves, I remind them of the old adage that, “a person who represents themselves has a fool for a client.” Filing or agreeing to the paternity of a child has wide-ranging consequences that affect at least three lives for up to 22 years. I also recognize that there are some people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent them. A party in Indiana may go to the local prosecutor’s office to file for paternity, but the prosecutors do not represent either party and will not generally address such things as custody, parenting time and name change. You can also check with the local or state bar associations that often have pro bono referrals or modest means referrals where a lawyer will take the cases for less than their normal rate. The Heartland Pro Bono Council refers qualifying individuals to attorneys who volunteer to handle such matters at no charge. The IU Maurer School of Law and the McKinney School of Law have legal clinics. You can also check the services available on the Indiana Court site at the Self-Service Center. If you do not qualify or do not live in their areas, you can try filing on your own.
Unfortunately, the state website does not provide forms for filing a paternity case. The attached templates are samples of what may be filed. This does not establish an attorney-client relationship, nor are we giving you legal advice. You must start with filing an appearance, petition to establish paternity, custody, parenting time, support etc., an order setting a hearing, and summons. If you have an agreement as to all issues, then you may submit the agreement to the court. Some courts, especially when the parties are pro se (representing themselves) require you to appear before the court for it to accept any agreement. The court also requires that you submit a child support worksheet signed by both parties in the case of an agreement. If you are having the name changed of the child you must also prepare the paternity name change form for the board of health to have the child’s name changed on the birth certificate.
There are other ways to establish paternity; however, it does not set support, parenting time, etc. The above is provided as an informational source and not for legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.