Paternity Information

What is paternity?

“Paternity” means fatherhood. Paternity may be presumed by law or determined by a court if it is disputed.

Why is paternity important?

Parents have the right to know their child and to contribute to that child’s future success. Children need and are entitled to:   

  • The law requires both parents to support their child, even if the pregnancy was unplanned or if the parents are not married to each other. Children who are supported by only one parent often do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. 
  • Children have the right to receive benefits from both parents if they are available. Benefits may include but are not limited to: Social Security, insurance, inheritance, and the Veterans’ Administration. If paternity has not been presumed or determined by a court, a child might not be able to claim benefits from the father.
  • Children have the right to know their parents. Children have the right to enjoy the sense of belonging that comes from knowing both parents. 
  • Children have the right to know if they have inherited any special health problems.

Paternity can be established several ways:

  • Genetic testing   -  sometimes called DNA testing, is available when receiving child support services. The result of the genetic testing is used to legally determine the father.  Genetic testing is normally not available if paternity has already been established.
  • Presumed paternity – If a child is born during a marriage or within 300 days after a marriage is terminated (divorce, death, annulment) the husband is presumed to be the father of the child.
  • Court Adjudication – legal action that results in a court order establishing the father-child relationship.
  • Adoption
  • Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form and Notice of Withdrawal of Paternity Form  – a process that involves signing a form to legally establish the father-child relationship when a child is born to unmarried parents.  When the form is completed and signed, the father's name will go on the child's birth certificate.
For more information regarding paternity please see the Paternity Information for Parents Handbook

Putative Father Registry

What is a Putative Father?

"A putative father" is a man who does not have a legal relationship with a child but intends to claim a parental interest. 

What is the Putative Father Registry?

The Registry allows putative fathers to register information about themselves, the mother and the child, so the putative father can be notified about possible future adoption proceedings. A registration form must be filed before the child's birth or within 72 hours after a child's birth in order to receive notice of an adoption.

To Register 

To add your name to the Putative Father Registry download and complete the form entitled  Putative Father Registry Form . The form may be mailed, faxed or delivered to the Office of Vital Records, Department of Public Health and Human Services, PO Box 4210, 111 N Sanders, Room 6, Helena, MT 59601, FAX (406) 444-1803.

To Search the Registry

Please follow the instructions provided by the Office of Vital Records.