This topic contains information on the following subjects:
A legal responsibility for a child must exist before a father can be pursued for support of the child. If no such responsibility has been determined, paternity must first be established. Under North Carolina law, paternity can be established at any time prior to a child's eighteenth (18th) birthday.
CSS must thoroughly evaluate the circumstances of the child's birth and any subsequent actions that might have been taken to determine if paternity establishment is needed. Paternity testing can be used to provide scientific evidence of biological paternity in making a determination of a legal responsibility of a father.
Paternity can be established by the following legal processes:
2. Civil paternity action (including UIFSA, long-arm actions, and straight civil paternity suits);
North Carolina law also provides processes to set aside a paternity determination and grant relief from a child support obligation to a man who is determined by the court NOT to be the responsible father of a child. See Paternity Disestablishment.
Federal time frames for establishment of support obligations require that if paternity is at issue for a child, paternity also must be established within the stated period. When conducting activities for the establishment of paternity, CSS must take all appropriate actions to adhere to the following federal time frames:
Federal regulation at 45 CFR 303.4 establishes standards for timely action to establish support obligations. The expectation is that within ninety (90) days of locating an alleged father or noncustodial parent (NCP), regardless of whether paternity has been established, CSS must:
Federal regulation at 45 CFR 303.101(b)(2)(i) requires states to have and use expedited processes to ensure that paternity and support orders are established in a timely manner. Regardless of whether paternity also must be established, a support order must be established:
Federal incentive funding is measured by the 12-month expedited process time frame. Federal regulation at 45 CFR 305.2 prescribes the formulas that can be used to determine a state's paternity establishment performance (PEP) level. If the paternity establishment rate for a state is below ninety percent (90%), the rate must be increased incrementally on a yearly basis until the rate reaches ninety percent (90%).
North Carolina's paternity establishment performance level is computed using the following formula:
Total # of children in the IV-D caseload at the end of the federal fiscal year who were born out of wedlock with paternity established or acknowledged
Total # of children born in the IV-D caseload at the end of the federal fiscal year who were born out of wedlock
CSS services for establishment of paternity are available for IV-D cases when a father's legal responsibility must be determined so that support can be pursued.
Paternity establishment services cannot be provided as a stand-alone service for a IV-D case or to any other person or agency for any purpose other than the establishment of a support obligation for a IV-D case. This includes assisting other programs in securing paternity testing to facilitate adoption or for any other purposes. The use of CSS funding and resources are governed by federal regulation and paternity testing laboratory contracts. Therefore, all inappropriate requests for paternity establishment services must be denied.
If a child in a IV-D case has no legally responsible father, paternity must be established before any action to establish a support obligation for the father can begin. To determine if paternity must be established, CSS must take all necessary steps to investigate and evaluate the paternity status of a child, including:
If the case evaluation determines that paternity is at issue, appropriate action to establish paternity must be initiated in a timely manner. Selection of the most appropriate action should take into consideration all information gathered, the willingness of the alleged father to participate, federal time frames, and any other pertinent factors.
If the case evaluation determines that paternity is not at issue, CSS should pursue the establishment of a support obligation for the responsible parent. See Support Establishment.
In the event that paternity is not at issue yet the mother alleges that another man is actually the child's biological father, CSS must include the legal father in any paternity or support action for the child. See Legal Vs. Biological Paternity or Paternity Disestablishment.
Paternity establishment applies only to a father's responsibility for his child. For the purposes of establishing and enforcing a support obligation for the mother, issues of whether a child was born of a marriage and the identification of the child's father are not relevant.
Paternity establishment is not an appropriate case activity for a case in which the mother of a child is being pursued for support. However, information on the paternity status is necessary for proper statistical reporting. It also would be necessary if paternity and support of the father are pursued at a later date.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.