A father's role in the family has been defined in various ways throughout the history of the United States. Today the line is skewed, as more often the establishment of paternity becomes a difficult process no longer defined by the old standards of marriage or adoption. This text discusses the changes in paternity laws over time and the ways in which each era's societal norms have been reflected in those laws. Custody, legitimacy, adoption and paternity are examined from a legal standpoint. Child support, visitation scheduling and third party parenting and visitation rights are also discussed, as are current trends that affect paternity laws. Major cases, statutes and model acts that exemplify changes in paternity laws are listed in three appendices.