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The specific process of filing a paternity action can vary per state. However, in most states, the mother or alleged father can file a paternity action to start the legal process.

Legal process

The case will typically start with the filing party completing paperwork with the court and paying a filing fee. Papers regarding the lawsuit will be served to the other party. That person has a set amount of time to respond to the complaint. A court date will be set.

An agreement can be reached before the court date if both parents agree to the legal paternity and sign a consent order. The court will typically adopt that order as the final order.

The case will be presented before a judge if an agreement isn’t reached before the court date.

Both parties must show up on the court date. If the alleged father does not appear, the judge can choose a default judgment — making him the legal father.

The court may also order a genetic test to help establish paternity.

In some states, paternity cannot be legally determined before the child is born. However, the legal process can often start before the child’s birth.

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