Establishment and confirmation of paternity

When a woman who is not married gives birth to a child, paternity must be established and confirmed separately. Paternity can be acknowledged at the maternity clinic before the child is born or at the child welfare officer’s office after the child is born.

Paternity is confirmed and entered into the population information system by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency(extrernal link). In clear cases, the acknowledgement of paternity primarily takes place at a maternity clinic. A separate appointment with a child welfare officer is not required. Parents can also sign an agreement on joint custody at the maternity clinic.

Appointment with the child welfare officer

The Digital and Population Data Services Agency informs the child welfare officer of children born outside of marriage. If paternity has not been acknowledged at the maternity clinic, the child welfare officer will send the child’s mother an invitation to the child welfare officer’s office for the purpose of establishing paternity. If the mother and the man who considers himself to be the father both want paternity to be acknowledged, they should come to the appointment together.

Both must bring a valid identity document with them to the appointment.  Acceptable documents include a passport (any state), an alien’s passport or a refugee travel document issued by Finnish authorities, an identity card (issued by Finnish, European Economic Area, San Marino or Swiss authorities) and a driving licence issued by Finnish authorities after 1 October 1990.

If a man acknowledges his paternity, the mother will be heard on the matter. Before the acknowledgement, the child welfare officer will go through the significance and legal consequences of the acknowledgement. Written documents will be drawn up during the appointment, and these will be submitted to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency will send the decision on the confirmation of paternity directly to the parents by post.

If paternity is unclear, forensic genetic tests may be carried out during the appointment with the child welfare officer to establish paternity. The person(s) whose paternity is being investigated will take a swab sample from inside their own cheek. The child’s sample is taken by the mother or another adult. The person to be tested should avoid eating, drinking (except water) and smoking for at least half an hour before the test. The child welfare officer will guide and supervise the sampling. The samples will be sent for examination to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, and the test results will be submitted to the child welfare officer.

During the appointment with the child welfare officer, parents can also agree on the child’s custody, living arrangements, right of access, and maintenance. 

Paternity can also be established by a court decision

If a man does not want to acknowledge paternity or the mother does not want to investigate the matter, paternity can be established by a court decision. Under the current Paternity Act, the mother can no longer oppose the establishment of paternity, but the child welfare officer has the right to suspend the establishment if necessary. A man who considers himself the father may also bring an action for the confirmation of paternity without acknowledging his paternity.

The child welfare officer may also establish paternity in case of a child born during marriage

Under the current Paternity Act, a married couple may ask the child welfare officer to establish paternity even if the child was born during marriage. The couple must request the establishment of paternity within six months of the birth of the child.

Paternity may also be acknowledged by a man other than the husband if both the mother and the husband accept the acknowledgement.

Confirmation of paternity gives the child rights

  • The child will have a legally valid family connection with their father and paternal relatives, including the right to inherit them.
  • The father can also be the child’s guardian.
  • The child has the right to visit their father if the child and the father live apart from each other.
  • The child has the right to maintenance by his father.
  • The father’s surname can be given to the child.
  • The child is entitled to possible pension and insurance benefits on the father’s side.

If paternity has never been confirmed, the mother, the possible father, or a child aged 15 years or over may at any time contact the child welfare officer for the purpose of establishing paternity. Even if the child is over 18 years old, paternity may be established and acknowledged at an appointment with a child welfare officer if all parties so wish.