Parentage is the legal relationship between a parent and a child. It includes both maternity (mom and child relationship) and paternity (dad and child relationship). When parentage is formed, it means that the person is the legal parent of the child. It also means that the person has certain rights and responsibilities like parenting time and child support.
If a person is married to a child's mother when the child is born, or when the child was conceived (or both), that person is already the child's legal parent. Otherwise, the person will need to establish parentage to become the legal parent of the child.
Parentage can be established in three ways:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP): This is used when both parents agree who is the mother or who is the father..
- Going to court: This is used when the parents don't agree who is the mother or father. It can take a long time, and it is hard to do without an attorney.
- DHFS hearing: This is used when the parents don't agree who is the mother or father of the child. It is easier than going to court, but it can take a long time, and is limited to parentage and child support. Parenting time and parental responsibilities will not be decided.
It is usually best for a person to establish parentage as soon as possible. A person can file to establish parentage up to the day the child turns 18 years old, and in some cases when the child turns 20.