Establishing Paternity in North Carolina: What You Need to Know

Understanding the Importance of Paternity in North Carolina

Establishing paternity is a critical legal step for various reasons, including securing child support, inheritance rights, and access to medical history. In North Carolina, there are specific procedures to determine a child's paternity, and understanding these can help parents or alleged fathers navigate the process more effectively.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

One of the simplest ways to establish paternity is through a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). This is a form that both parents can sign at the hospital immediately after the birth of their child, or later at the county's Register of Deeds or the Child Support Enforcement Agency. Once signed and notarized, the VAP is considered legal proof of paternity and will be used to update the birth certificate with the father's name.

Court-Ordered Paternity Testing

If paternity is disputed, either party can initiate a court action to determine paternity. The court may order DNA testing to establish a biological link between the father and child. The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement Agency can also initiate this process if it's necessary for establishing child support.

An historical reference that underscores the importance of court-ordered testing can be drawn from the landmark 1968 case Levi v. Brooks, where DNA testing played a pivotal role in establishing paternity. Such cases paved the way for modern paternity laws.

Implications of Establishing Paternity

Once paternity is established, several rights and obligations come into play. The father gains the right to seek custody or visitation while also bearing the responsibility for child support. The child gains rights to inheritance and may have access to benefits such as health insurance from the father.

The Legal Process and Support

The process of establishing paternity includes filing a petition with the court, serving papers to the alleged father, and proceeding with court hearings. Legal representation or consulting with an attorney specializing in family law can significantly aid individuals through this process.


Establishing paternity in North Carolina is a process that involves either voluntary acknowledgment or court intervention. Understanding your rights and responsibilities is integral to safeguarding the well-being of all parties involved.