If parents are married at the time of a child’s birth, the husband is generally legally recognized as the father of the child. In cases involving unmarried parents, however, paternity usually needs to be formally recognized in order to secure the father’s rights. This can be done by filing a paternity case or by recording a paternity affidavit with the appropriate government office. A paternity affidavit is a document that provides parents with a way of formally acknowledging the father of a child. A child can receive a number of legal benefits from establishing paternity, such as inheritance rights from the father as well as government, medical, and life insurance benefits.
A paternity affidavit form is usually completed at a hospital after the child is born, although it can also be filled out at a local health department. While paternity affidavits vary from one jurisdiction to another, most require information about the mother, the father, and the child. Usually, both of the parents are required to sign and notarize the document. By signing the document, the parties are agreeing that the statements they've made are true. Once the form has been completed, it is often forwarded to a paternity registry.
The paternity affidavit itself is usually straightforward. Most include a sworn statement by the mother that the man is the child’s father as well as a sworn statement by the man indicating that he believes he is the father. If the mother is married to someone else, her husband is normally required to sign the form and agree with these statements. Forms often include information about the impact of signing the affidavit and child support enforcement services.
A time period, such as 60 days, exists in most jurisdictions for contesting a paternity affidavit that has been recorded. A person who is entitled to object to the affidavit can do so by filing a paternity case. After the case has been filed, a court generally orders genetic testing for the purpose of determining whether the man is the child’s biological father. A court ordinarily nullifies the affidavit if testing proves that the man is not the father.
If the child’s parents are unmarried, the mother usually retains custody of the child even if the father has signed a paternity affidavit. A court order is customarily required in order to change custody status. Once the affidavit has been signed, assuming it’s not contested, the father has a legal obligation to support his child. If he does not, a court can order him to pay child support to the mother.