A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is a document signed by a mother and a father, which establishes legal paternity. In most states, the document is sent to the vital records office, which records the father's name on the child's birth certificate. By itself, a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity does not establish issues like:

However, the acknowledgment can be used in court proceedings on those issues. 

Who Should Sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity?

Only the natural birth parents of a child should sign an acknowledgment of paternity. An individual who is not the biological father of a child should think long and hard before signing this document, because it has serious legal consequences. It can be used in court to establish a duty to pay child support, and other parental rights and obligations. Additionally, it is very difficult to withdraw an acknowledgment if a father later changes his mind about signing it.

What If the Father Refuses to Sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity?

In most states, if a man believed to be the father of a child refuses to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the mother of the child can bring a court action to establish paternity. In most cases, paternity will then be determined by DNA testing. As mentioned above, the results of this court proceeding can then be used to resolve issues such as custody, visitation rights, and child support.

Can a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Be Withdrawn?

Issues can arise when an individual signs a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, and then later learns that he is not the father of the child. In most states, voluntary acknowledgements of paternity can be withdrawn by either the mother or father of the child within a short time period after they are signed, typically within 60 days.

After that time period, it is much more difficult to withdraw a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. After that time period has expired, voluntary acknowledgments of paternity may only be withdrawn after showing fraud, undue influence, or another serious mistake.  

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Because the laws on paternity, child custody, and child support are complicated and vary from state to state, you should consult a lawyer if you have questions on these issues. A family law attorney can help you to understand your options if you are having difficulty in establishing paternity, or if you have signed an acknowledgment of paternity and wish to withdraw.