Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

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 What is the Acknowledgement of Paternity?

According to the Child Support Services Division from the Attorney General Office of DC, An Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) is a legal document in which the unmarried mother and father identify a child’s father. If the AOP meets the requirement of District law, it declares the child’s father without the need to attend court.

The simplest way to complete the AOP is typically at the hospital or birthing center after the child is born. The staff there will enable the parents to complete and notarize the AOP accurately. They can also file the AOP with the Vital Records Division of the Department of Health. If your child is already born, you can go to either the Vital Records Division or the Child Support Services Division.

At both locations, staff will educate you about your rights and responsibilities, help you complete the AOP, notarize it, and have it filed. The following is some helpful information for the first time:

  • Both parents must verify that the information on the AOP form is true.
  • Parents will be expected to provide photo identification.
  • No blood test is required.
  • Signing an AOP is easy and free.
  • Both parents must sign the AOP in the presence of a notary public.
  • The AOP must be notarized by the notary public who witnesses the parents’ signatures
  • The form must be fully completed, typed or hand-written in ink, and legible.
  • It is possible to rescind an AOP, but there is a time limit ( check the local state rules on this).

For instance, similarly to the DC rules, the Delaware Courts define Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) as a way to name the legal father without attending court if the parents are not married. Generally, when the parents of a child are not married, the Family Court issues an order naming the child’s legal parent.

When defining a VAP, each parent must make his or her own decision. If both parents consent to sign the acknowledgment form, paternity is established without a hassle.

Acknowledging paternity is necessary for the child because the child may be able to receive benefits as a legal dependent of the parent. Some of these benefits can be social security, veteran’s benefits, disability, health care coverage, inheritance, and positive psychological benefits.

When an acknowledgment is properly signed, it establishes the man’s paternity of the child unless either parent rescinds the acknowledgment within 60 days of filing with the Office of Vital Statistics (OVS).

Again, these deadlines may vary, so check with the local state government website you reside in. The form can only be signed after the child is born, and it can be signed at the hospital or anytime until the child turns 18 or 19 if the child is attending high school. There is no fee for signing the acknowledgment form; it will permit the other parent’s name to be placed on the birth certificate. Only the biological parents should sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity form.

The parents’ marital status and the circumstances of the child’s birth must permit them to establish paternity through an AOP. Usually, this implies that the child must be born in the District (or the local state), and the parents must not be married or in a registered domestic partnership. Furthermore, if the mother was married when the child was born, she cannot complete an AOP with another man.

For instance, if Jessica was married to Harvey when her baby was born, even though Robert was the biological father, Jessica and Robert are not entitled to sign an AOP for the baby. Both parents must receive written and oral information about alternatives to, legal consequences of, and the rights and responsibilities that may arise from signing the AOP. The oral information may be recorded through video or audio media.

Keep in mind that a man should not sign an AOP unless it is absolute that he is the child’s biological father. If you are not certain whether you are the father, have genetic testing performed before signing. On a side note, private testing can cost at least $300. If a child support case has already been initiated, testing can be completed through the Child Support Services Division (CSSD).

If the results yield that a man is a father, there is a nominal fee associated with the genetic testing. There is no cost If the results yield that a man is not the father. There are legal consequences to signing the AOP, including being financially responsible for the child, and the child’s biological father should only take on those legal consequences. If you realize that you are not the father, do not sign the AOP.

What Does it Mean to Establish Parentage?

The California Courts state that establishing parentage means obtaining a court order or signing an official declaration of parentage or paternity that declares a child’s legal parents. For instance, if the parents of a child were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born, the child does not have a legal father until parentage is established.

So even if a father can verify he is the biological father of a child, if he was never married to the mother, he does not legally have any rights or responsibilities for the child. For that, parentage must be lawfully specified.

Establishing parentage is essential before custody, visitation, or child support can be ordered by a court. You can request the judge for child support or custody and visitation orders as part of a case that declares the child’s parentage.

Once a person is established as the father or mother of a child, he or she will retain all the rights and responsibilities of a parent, including the ones below:

  • He or she will be able to request custody and visitation (parenting time) orders from the court to legally visit with his or her child.
  • He or she will also be accountable for paying child support and will have to pay half of the uninsured healthcare costs for the children and half of the child-care costs that result from the custodial parent getting or having a job or going to school.
  • In some cases, the court may determine that a child has more than two parents, which is usually accomplished when it would hurt the child if additional parents were not legally recognized or not in the child’s best interest.

If a person is established as a legal parent of a child, that person is mandated to support the child financially. It is considered a crime for a legal parent to fail to support his or her child. A legal parent also possesses the right to obtain custody or visitation rights related to the child.

What Are Some Methods to Establish Parentage?

There are two main ways to establish parentage when the child’s parents are not married:

  • Signing a voluntary declaration of parentage or paternity, or
  • Getting a court order (either on your own or with the help of the Local Child Support Agency).

A voluntary declaration of parentage or paternity is a governmental form that, when signed by both parents, acknowledges them as the child’s legal parents. The form must be signed voluntarily. The purpose of the declaration of parentage or paternity is to officially and legally establish the identification of the child’s parents when the parents are not married to each other.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are in a situation that requires the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, seek out a local paternity attorney to assist you with the process.

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