In Oregon, establishing paternity is the process of determining or acknowledging the legal father of a child. The law presumes that a man is the legal father of a child if he is listed on the child’s birth certificate as the father. State law also presumes that the legal father of a child born during a marriage is the man who is married to the birth mother at the time of birth. However, these presumptions can be challenged and overturned if there are doubts as to paternity.
The purpose of establishing paternity is more than just to acknowledge legal relationship of the father to the child, it establishes the rights the legal father has to the child as well as the benefits the child may be entitled to receive from, because of, and on behalf of the father. A legal father can file for child custody or parenting time. A mother or the state can seek child support from a legal father. A child can receive benefits such as health insurance, social security benefits, veteran’s or military benefits, and educational support from the legal father when paternity if established.
The establishment of paternity may occur in several ways, such as:
- Presumptions under Oregon law
- Voluntary acknowledgment by the filing with the State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics or voluntary acknowledgment in another state
- Determination by a court
Although some ways to establish paternity may require going to court or administrative for resolution, a person does not need to have a lawyer establish paternity. Oregon law allows a natural person who files or defends a legal action, lawsuit, or legal proceeding to be represented by an attorney or for the person to represent him or herself. A person who represents themselves in a legal action, case, or proceeding is called a pro se party. A pro se party can be the plaintiff/petitioner who files the case or the defendant/respondent who defends or responds to the case. If a person decides to represent himself in a paternity case, he must follow the same laws and rules as a licensed attorney. A pro se party can only represent him or herself in a legal action. Unless the pro se is a licensed attorney in the state or Oregon, he or she cannot represent other parties in a lawsuit in capacity as an attorney.
A case to establish paternity includes many Oregon laws that the pro se party must follow. In addition to the state domestic relations laws, such legal action may include the application of civil procedure laws, evidence law, and local court rules. Deadlines for legal cases can be a short a several days. Therefore, the pro se party needs to have the availability to file documents with the court that are required as well as make sure that the documents are completed in compliance with the law.
Because a case to establish paternity can be time-consuming and complex it is best to hire an attorney even though the a person can represent himself. Attorneys provide legal representation as a career; therefore, they have the education, time, knowledge, experience to handle the case. They also have the understanding of the court system and the legal process to protect the rights of their clients.
An attorney is a person that is licensed by a state to provide legal guidance and representation. When a person hire an attorney to represent them in a legal case and proceedings, the client has a legal representative to establish paternity and resolve any issue arising out of the determination of legal paternity. Attorneys are required to provide competent legal representation, which includes, legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation. In hiring an attorney, the client can be confident that the attorney it more than capable to handle the establishment of paternity legal action.
While the option to represent himself to establish paternity may remove the financial cost of attorney’s fees, the pro se party must allot a significant amount of time in their schedule to meet all court deadlines and to obtain or complete documents needed for the case. However, an attorney is required to be diligent in representing a client’s case. The Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits attorneys from neglecting any legal matters that have been entrusted to them as attorneys.