Maryland Paternity Law


Paternity – General – Maryland

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law applicable to an action to establish Paternity in the State of Maryland, but does include basic and other provisions.

Statutes:

Maryland Code
Family Law

§ 5-1002. (1997)

(a) The General Assembly finds that:

(1) this State has a duty to improve the deprived social and economic status of children born out of wedlock; and

(2) the policies and procedures in this subtitle are socially necessary and desirable.

(b) The purpose of this subtitle is:

(1) to promote the general welfare and best interests of children born out of wedlock by securing for them, as nearly as practicable, the same rights to support, care, and education as children born in wedlock;

(2) to impose on the mothers and fathers of children born out of wedlock the basic obligations and responsibilities of parenthood; and

(3) to simplify the procedures for determining paternity, custody, guardianship, and responsibility for the support of children born out of wedlock.

(c) Nothing in this subtitle may be construed to limit the right of a putative father to file a complaint to establish his paternity of a child.

§ 5-1005. (1984)

(a) An equity court may determine the legitimacy of a child pursuant to § 1-208 of the Estates and Trusts Article.

(b) This section does not limit paternity proceedings under this subtitle except after the legitimation of a child under this section.

§ 5-1006. (2007)

(a) A proceeding to establish paternity of a child under this subtitle may be begun at any time before the child’s eighteenth birthday.

(b) A paternity proceeding under this subtitle may be begun during pregnancy.

(c) A complaint under this subtitle is not barred because the child born out of wedlock was conceived or born outside this State.

(d) Dependent child’s twenty-first birthday. — A proceeding to establish paternity of a child who is dependent on a parent because of a mental or physical infirmity may be begun at any time before the child’s twenty-first birthday.

§ 5-1007. (1984)
Any rule of court or statute that relates to procedure applies to a proceeding under this subtitle only to the extent that the rule or statute is:

(1) practical under the circumstances; and

(2) not inconsistent with this subtitle.

§ 5-1010. (1997)

(a) A complaint need not be in any particular form.

(b) The complaint shall be written in simple, nontechnical language.

(c) The complaint shall state the facts on which the complaint is based.

(d)

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, a complaint filed under this subtitle shall be supported by the oath of the mother or pregnant woman, whether or not she is a party to the paternity proceeding.

(2) The complaint may be filed without the oath if the mother or pregnant woman:

(i) is dead;

(ii) refuses to file a complaint;

(iii) refuses to disclose the identity of the father of the child;

(iv) is mentally or physically incapable of making an oath; or

(v) refuses to make the oath.

(3) If the complaint is filed without an oath under paragraph (2) of this subsection:

(i) the complainant shall verify the fact of the pregnancy or birth; and

(ii) if the mother or pregnant woman is living, she shall be made a defendant.

(e)

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, the clerk of court may not receive a complaint starting paternity proceedings unless the consent of the State’s Attorney is attached to the complaint.

(2) The consent of the State’s Attorney is not required if:

(i) the complaint is filed on behalf of the Administration; or

(ii) after considering testimony or information given by affidavit, or both, the court:

1. finds that the complaint is meritorious; and

2. rules that the consent is not required.

(3) Except by an order of court for good cause shown, a proceeding under this subtitle may not be dismissed voluntarily without the consent of the State’s Attorney.

§ 5-1011. (2006)

(a)

(1) Representation. — The Administration may be the complainant in any proceeding under this subtitle in which the Administration is providing child support services under federal law.

(2) The Administration shall be represented in accordance with § 10-115 of this article.

(b) Out-of-state residents. — For purposes of providing legal representation in a paternity proceeding under this section, the Administration may approve child support services for a person who resides out-of-state.

(c) Court costs. — A complainant under this section is not required to prepay court costs.

(d) Powers of counsel. — If the Attorney General or a qualified lawyer appointed by the Attorney General represents the complainant under § 10-115 of this article, the Attorney General or the lawyer has the same powers granted to the State’s Attorney under this subtitle.

§ 5-1012. (1984)

(a) At any time before the case is called for trial, the defendant may file a written answer to the complaint.

(b) The answer need not be in any particular form.

(c) The court shall enter a general denial of the complaint on behalf of the defendant if the defendant does not:

(1) file a written answer; or

(2) admit the material allegations of the complaint in open court.

(d) To ensure that the defendant understands the nature and substance of the complaint, the court shall read or explain the complaint to the defendant if the defendant:

(1) appears for trial without filing a written answer; or

(2) files a written answer admitting the complaint and is not represented by counsel.

§ 5-1013. (1984)

(a) A party under legal disability need not proceed by guardian, committee, or next friend or defend by guardian ad litem, committee, or court-appointed counsel under this subtitle.

(b) Any proceeding under this subtitle by or against a party under legal disability and any action taken by counsel on behalf of a party under legal disability is binding on that party as if that party were not under legal disability.

(c) Any person who has knowledge of a party’s legal disability shall advise the court of that disability. This duty to advise the court applies particularly to the counsel for the parties.

(d) The court may take any action and order any proceedings that the court considers just and proper to protect the rights of a party under legal disability.

§ 5-1014. (1984)

(a) When a complaint is filed under this subtitle, the court may issue, to assure the appearance of the defendant at trial:

(1) a summons for the appearance of the defendant; or

(2) a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.

(b)

(1) The summons shall state the time and place for the defendant to appear at trial.

(2) If the defendant fails to appear as directed in the summons, the court may issue, at any time, a warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

(c) The arrest warrant shall direct any officer of this State who is authorized to execute warrants to bring the defendant before the court to answer and have the matters in the complaint adjudicated.

(d)

(1) If a defendant is arrested under a warrant, the defendant shall be taken before:

(i) the court that issued the warrant; or

(ii) a commissioner of the District Court.

(2) The court or commissioner shall set bond for the defendant. The bond shall be conditioned on:

(i) the defendant’s appearance in the issuing court on the date and at the time specified in the warrant; and

(ii) the defendant’s obedience to any order of the court in the proceedings.

(3) The court or commissioner may require on the bond the securities or sureties the court or the commissioner considers appropriate.

(4) If the defendant does not give bond, the court or commissioner shall order the defendant imprisoned in the city or county jail until bond is given or until the issuing court discharges the defendant.

§ 5-1015. (1984)
Process under this subtitle shall be served or executed in the way provided by law or rule of court for service on a person who is not under a legal disability.

§ 5-1016. (1984)

(a)

(1) Before or after the filing of a complaint, the alleged father may propose a settlement concerning the child’s support whether the alleged father admits or denies paternity.

(2) The proposed contribution may be in a lump sum, installments, or otherwise.

(b) A settlement agreement shall be prepared, executed, and submitted to the court for approval if:

(1) the complainant agrees to accept the settlement;

(2) the State’s Attorney is satisfied that the amount and terms of the settlement are fair and reasonable;

(3) the complainant has been advised properly regarding the contents of the settlement; and

(4) the complainant is competent to accept the settlement.

(c) If the court approves the settlement agreement, the terms of the agreement shall be incorporated in a court order.

(d) A court order incorporating a settlement agreement is as enforceable as any order that is passed after a hearing.

§ 5-1019. (1984)

(a) Before or after a complaint is filed under this subtitle, the State’s Attorney may hold a pretrial inquiry.

(b) In connection with any pretrial inquiry under this section, the State’s Attorney may:

(1) issue a summons that requires a person, other than the alleged father, to appear, to testify, and to produce documents connected with the examination;

(2) administer oaths;

(3) examine witnesses; and

(4) receive evidence.

(c)

(1) If a person fails to obey a summons, or fails to testify or comply with a request of the State’s Attorney, the State’s Attorney may request the circuit court for the county to order the person:

(i) to obey the summons;

(ii) to testify; or

(iii) to produce any document that the court considers necessary for the inquiry.

(2) If a person fails or refuses to obey the order of court after the order has been served, the person is in contempt of court and the court may punish the person for the contempt.

(3) A finding of contempt under this subsection is subject to appeal.

§ 5-1020. (1997)
Before the State’s Attorney conducts a pretrial inquiry under this subtitle, the State’s Attorney shall notify the parties in writing of:

(1) the time and place of the inquiry;

(2) the alleged father’s right to appear at the inquiry and to produce evidence or information that relates to the inquiry; and

(3) the alleged father’s right to testify in his own behalf before the State’s Attorney, if the alleged father:

(i) notifies the State’s Attorney of the alleged father’s desire to testify; and

(ii) signs a waiver that permits his testimony to be used against him in the paternity proceeding.

§ 5-1021. (1994)

(a) In connection with a pretrial inquiry under this subtitle, the State’s Attorney may request any individual summoned to the pretrial inquiry to submit to a blood or genetic test.

(b) If the individual refuses the State’s Attorney’s request to submit to a blood or genetic test, the State’s Attorney may apply to the circuit court for an order that directs the individual to submit to the test.

§ 5-1024. (1994)

(a) If a defendant fails to appear after being summoned or after giving bond as required by § 5-1014 of this subtitle, the court, in the absence of the defendant, shall, unless there is good cause to the contrary:

(1) proceed with the hearing on the complaint; and

(2)

(i) issue a default judgment adjudicating paternity if the court is satisfied by the evidence presented by the petitioner; or

(ii) pass any other order that is just and proper.

(b) Any order passed under subsection (a) of this section shall be binding on and enforceable against the defendant as if the defendant were present at the hearing.

(c) If a defendant fails to appear after being summoned or after giving bond as required by § 5-1014 of this subtitle, bond shall be forfeited and applied to the payment of any obligation imposed by an order passed in the proceeding.

(d) If a defendant fails to appear after being properly summoned or after giving bond as required by § 5-1014 of this subtitle, the defendant remains subject to arrest and whatever other disposition the court may order.

§ 5-1025. (1984)

(a) The trial may not be held until after the birth of the child who is the subject of the proceeding.

(b) If a complaint is filed before the birth of the child, then, until the trial is held, the court may:

(1) order the alleged father or the pregnant woman to give bond, as provided in § 5-1014 of this subtitle, conditioned on the party:

(i) appearing in the proceeding; and

(ii) complying with any further orders of the court;

(2) increase or decrease any bond previously given by the alleged father or the pregnant woman; and

(3) conduct any other preliminary proceeding that the court considers just and proper.

§ 5-1026. (1997)

(a) The court shall hear the complaint without a jury.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in this subtitle, proceedings under this subtitle shall be treated in accordance with the laws, rules, and practice that relate to trials in other civil cases.

(c) In a trial under this subtitle, no comment on or reference to an alleged father’s failure to testify may be made or permitted.

§ 5-1027. (1997)

(a) At the trial, the burden is on the complainant to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the alleged father is the father of the child.

(b) Both the mother and the alleged father are competent to testify at the trial.

(c)

(1) There is a rebuttable presumption that the child is the legitimate child of the man to whom its mother was married at the time of conception.

(2) The presumption set forth in this subsection may be rebutted by the testimony of a person other than the mother or her husband.

(3) If the court determines that the presumption set forth in this subsection has been rebutted by testimony of a person other than the mother or her husband, it is not necessary to establish nonaccess of the husband to rebut the presumption set forth in this subsection.

(4) If the court determines that the presumption set forth in this subsection has been rebutted by testimony of a person other than the mother or her husband, both the mother and her husband are competent to testify as to the nonaccess of the husband at the time of conception.

(d) The alleged father may not be compelled to give evidence at the trial.

§ 5-1028. (1997)

(a) An unmarried father and mother shall be provided an opportunity to execute an affidavit of parentage in the manner provided under § 4-208 of the Health – General Article.

(b) The affidavit shall be completed on a standardized form developed by the Department.

(c)

(1) The completed affidavit of parentage form shall contain:

(i) in ten point boldface type a statement that the affidavit is a legal document and constitutes a legal finding of paternity;

(ii) the full name and the place and date of birth of the child;

(iii) the full name of the attesting father of the child;

(iv) the full name of the attesting mother of the child;

(v)the signatures of the father and the mother of the child attesting, under penalty of perjury, that the information provided on the affidavit is true and correct;

(vi) a statement by the mother consenting to the assertion of paternity and acknowledging that her cosignatory is the only possible father;

(vii) a statement by the father that he is the natural father of the child; and

(viii) the Social Security numbers provided by each of the parents.

(2) Before completing an affidavit of parentage form, the unmarried mother and the father shall be advised orally and in writing of the legal consequences of executing the affidavit and of the benefit of seeking legal counsel.

(d)

(1) An executed affidavit of parentage constitutes a legal finding of paternity, subject to the right of any signatory to rescind the affidavit:

(i) in writing within 60 days after execution of the affidavit; or

(ii) in a judicial proceeding relating to the child:

1. in which the signatory is a party; and

2. that occurs before the expiration of the 60-day period.

(2)

(i) After the expiration of the 60-day period, an executed affidavit of parentage may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.

(ii) The burden of proof shall be on the challenger to show fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.

(iii) The legal responsibilities of any signatory arising from the affidavit, including child support obligations, may not be suspended during the challenge, except for good cause shown.

(e) The Administration shall prepare written information to be furnished to unmarried mothers under § 4-208 of the Health – General Article concerning the benefits of having the paternity of their children established, including the availability of child support enforcement services.

(f) The Department shall make the standardized affidavit forms available to all hospitals in the State.

(g) The Secretary, in consultation with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Hospital Association, shall adopt regulations governing the provisions of this section and § 4-208 of the Health – General Article.

§ 5-1029. (1997)

(a)

(1) The Administration may request the mother, child, and alleged father to submit to blood or genetic tests.

(2) If the mother, child, or alleged father fails to comply with the request of the Administration, the Administration may apply to the circuit court for an order that directs the individual to submit to the tests.

(b) On the motion of the Administration, a party to the proceeding, or on its own motion, the court shall order the mother, child, and alleged father to submit to blood or genetic tests to determine whether the alleged father can be excluded as being the father of the child.

(c) The blood or genetic tests shall be made in a laboratory selected by the court from a list of laboratories provided by the Administration.

(d) The laboratory shall report the results of each blood or genetic test in writing and in the form the court requires.

(e) A copy of the laboratory report of the blood or genetic test shall be provided to the parties or their counsel in the manner that the court directs.

(f)

(1) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (3) of this subsection, the laboratory report of the blood or genetic test shall be received in evidence if:

(i) definite exclusion is established; or

(ii) the testing is sufficiently extensive to exclude 97.3% of alleged fathers who are not biological fathers, and the statistical probability of the alleged father’s paternity is at least 97.3%.

(2) A laboratory report is prima facie evidence of the results of a blood or genetic test.

(3)

(i) Subject to the provisions of subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, the laboratory report of the blood or genetic test is admissible in evidence without the presence of a doctor or technician from the laboratory that prepared the report if the report:

1. is signed by the doctor or technician who prepared or verified the report; and

2. states that the result of the blood or genetic test is as stated in the report.

(ii) When the laboratory report of the blood or genetic test is admitted in evidence, a doctor or technician from the laboratory that prepared the report is subject to cross-examination by any party to the proceeding if the party who desires cross-examination has subpoenaed the doctor or technician at least 10 days before trial.

(4) A laboratory report received into evidence establishing a statistical probability of the alleged father’s paternity of at least 99.0% constitutes a rebuttable presumption of his paternity.

(g) If any individual fails to submit to a blood or genetic test ordered by the court, that refusal, properly introduced in evidence:

(1) shall be disclosed to the court; and

(2) may be commented on by counsel.

(h)

(1) Unless indigent, the party who requests a blood or genetic test or who secures the appearance in court of a doctor or technician from the laboratory that prepared the report of the blood or genetic test is responsible for the cost of the test and the costs associated with the court appearance. However, if the requesting party prevails in the proceeding, the court shall assess the cost of the blood or genetic test or the costs associated with the court appearance against the other parties to the proceeding.

(2) If any party chargeable with the cost of the blood or genetic test or the costs associated with court appearance is indigent, the cost of the blood or genetic test or the costs associated with the court appearance shall be borne by the county where the proceeding is pending, except to the extent that the court orders any other party to the proceeding to pay all or part of the cost.

(3) Subject to the right of any party to subpoena a custodian of records at least 10 days before trial, a written statement from the laboratory that prepared the report of the blood or genetic test concerning the cost of the test and the cost associated with the court appearance shall be admissible in evidence without the presence of a custodian of records and shall constitute prima facie evidence of the costs.

(i) Upon motion of the Administration or any party to the proceeding and due consideration by the court, the court shall pass a temporary order for the support of the child if:

(1) a laboratory report establishes a statistical probability of paternity of at least 99.0%; and

(2) the court determines that the putative father has the ability to provide temporary support for the child.

§ 5-1032. (1997)

(a) If the court finds that the alleged father is the father, the court shall pass an order that:

(1) declares the alleged father to be the father of the child; and

(2) provides for the support of the child.

(b)

(1) The father shall pay the sum to be specified in the order until the first to occur of the following events:

(i) the child becomes an adult;

(ii) the child dies;

(iii) the child marries; or

(iv) the child becomes self-supporting.

(2) If the child is an adult but is destitute and cannot be self-supporting because of a physical or mental infirmity, the court may require the father to continue to pay support during the period of the infirmity.

(c) Any money that is due for child support under this subtitle and is unpaid at the time the child becomes an adult, dies, marries, or becomes self-supporting is a continuing obligation of any party bound by the order of court until the money is paid.

(d) The court shall pass an immediate and continuing withholding order on earnings of the father in accordance with Title 10, Subtitle 1, Part III of this article.

§ 5-1033. (1997)

(a) In a paternity proceeding, the court may order the father or the mother to pay all or part of any 1 or more of the following:

(1) the support of the child;

(2) the mother’s medical and hospital expenses for pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery; and

(3) the funeral expenses of the child.

(b) Subject to the right of any party to subpoena a custodian of records at least 10 days before trial, any records relating to the cost of the mother’s medical and hospital expenses for pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery and any neonatal expenses of the child shall be admissible in evidence without the presence of a custodian of records and shall constitute prima facie evidence of the amount of expenses incurred.

(c) The court in a paternity proceeding may order the father to pay either or both of the following:

(1) all or part of the medical support of the child, including neonatal expenses; and

(2) counsel fees to the counsel who represents the complainant.

§ 5-1034. (1984)

(a) The court may direct that any payment ordered under this subtitle be made to the mother or any other person.

(b) If the child is, or is likely to become, a public charge, the court may order any payment ordered under this subtitle to be made to the appropriate support enforcement agency for the support of the child.

§ 5-1035. (1984)

(a) In an order passed under this subtitle, the court may include a provision, directed to any party, regarding:

(1) custody of the child;

(2) visitation privileges with the child;

(3) giving bond; or

(4) any other matter that is related to the general welfare and best interests of the child.

(b) In an order passed under this subtitle, the court may order any party:

(1) to remain in this State; or

(2) to report to the court any change of address.

§ 5-1036. (1989)

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, the court may award costs under this subtitle in accordance with the Maryland Rules.

(b) The court may order all or part of the costs to be paid by the county where the proceeding is instituted.

(c) The court may order any party to pay the costs of the proceeding.

§ 5-1037. (1984)
The court may not enter an order under this subtitle against a party unless the party is given reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard.

§ 5-1038. (1995)

(a)

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a declaration of paternity in an order is final.

(2)

(i) A declaration of paternity may be modified or set aside:

1. in the manner and to the extent that any order or decree of an equity court is subject to the revisory power of the court under any law, rule, or established principle of practice and procedure in equity; or

2. if a blood or genetic test done in accordance with § 5-1029 of this subtitle establishes the exclusion of the individual named as the father in the order.

(ii) Notwithstanding subparagraph (i) of this paragraph, a declaration of paternity may not be modified or set aside if the individual named in the order acknowledged paternity knowing he was not the father.

(b) Except for a declaration of paternity, the court may modify or set aside any order or part of an order under this subtitle as the court considers just and proper in light of the circumstances and in the best interests of the child.

§ 5-1039. (1998)

(a) If the court finds that the alleged father is not the father, the court may:

(1) retain jurisdiction; and

(2) on its own motion or otherwise, take any further proceeding that the court considers just and proper and in the best interests of the child.

(b) Under this section, the court may:

(1) enter an appropriate order against the mother for the support of the child;

(2) allow the impleader or joinder of any other alleged father; or

(3) consider any other matter that may be in the best interests of the child.

§ 5-1040. (1984)

(a) On completion of a paternity proceeding, the court may order the clerk of court:

(1) to seal all papers in the case; and

(2) not to open any papers in the case, except on order of the court.

(b) In any further proceeding under § 5-1038 of this subtitle on support payments or custody, the papers in the case, once ordered sealed, shall remain sealed unless the court orders otherwise.

§ 5-1041. (1984)

(a) A court order under this subtitle is enforceable in the same manner and to the same extent as any other order of an equity court in this State.

(b) If an individual fails to make a support payment ordered under this subtitle, the individual shall be served with an order that directs the individual to show cause why that individual should not be held in contempt.
(c)

(1) The court shall issue a warrant for the arrest of any individual who:

(i) fails to appear in response to a show cause order served on the individual under this section; or

(ii) cannot be served with the show cause order.

(2) A warrant issued under this subsection shall be issued as provided in § 5-1014 of this subtitle.

(d) If the court finds that an individual has failed to make a support payment ordered under this subtitle while having the means to pay, the court:

(1) shall find the individual guilty of civil contempt; and

(2) may order the individual imprisoned until the individual complies with the support order or otherwise purges the contempt.

§ 5-1042. (1984)

(a) In a paternity proceeding, the court may order that either or both of the parents of the child give bond in the form and penalty the court directs, with or without securities.

(b) The bond to be given by a parent shall be conditioned on:

(1) the performance of all provisions of the order and any subsequent modification to the order;

(2) the parent not leaving this State without the court’s permission; and

(3) the parent not changing address within this State without giving proper notice to a support enforcement officer or other person the court designates.

§ 5-1044. (1984)
A party has the right to appeal from an order under this subtitle to the Court of Special Appeals, as provided in Title 12, Subtitle 3 of the Courts Article.

§ 5-1047. (1984)

(a) The clerk of the circuit court shall keep a docket known as the “paternity docket”.

(b) The paternity docket shall contain the records, proceedings, and orders that relate to each case brought under this subtitle.

§ 5-1048. (1997)
A finding of paternity established in any other state shall have the same force and effect in a proceeding under this subtitle as in any other civil proceeding in this State if:

(1) with respect to an adjudication of paternity, the finding was established by a court or by an administrative process that includes a right to appeal to a court; or

(2) with respect to a finding of paternity that is based on an affidavit of parentage, the affidavit was signed after each signatory to the affidavit was advised of their legal rights.