What is an Acknowledgement of Paternity?

Malcolm Tatum

Also known as a declaration of paternity, an acknowledgement of paternity is the official recognition of a male that he is the father of a specifically identified child or children. In many instances, this is a voluntary declaration that is made in preparation for establishing financial support by the father for the child or children. While often utilized in situations in which the father is seeking parental rights when no legal union exists between the father and mother, the acknowledgement of paternity is sometimes also used to establish the identity of the father and ensure that he does provide some type of financial support even if visitation and custody rights are not sought.

The father of a child may acknowledge paternity through an affidavit.
The father of a child may acknowledge paternity through an affidavit.

There are a number of variations in how an acknowledegment of paternity originates in different jurisdictions. When the mother and father are not legally married, some jurisdictions require that before the father’s name can be listed on the birth certificate, he must sign a formal declaration or acknowledgement of paternity, indicating that he is the biological father to the child. Depending on the laws that apply to child care and custody rights within that jurisdiction, signing this type of affirmation may be required before a court will recognize the male as a legal parent and grant the father the same legal rights and responsibilities that are afforded to the mother.

A father can acknowledge a child as his own through a paternal affidavit.
A father can acknowledge a child as his own through a paternal affidavit.

An acknowledgement of paternity may also be utilized when there is some doubt regarding the parentage of the child. When this is the case, the male may request that no name for the father appear on the birth record until testing is done shortly after the child is born. Testing methods today are painless and make it possible to quickly ascertain if the male in question is the biological father. Once the tests establish paternity, the male is able to sign a declaration of paternity and accept the responsibility of helping to provide for the child until he or she reaches adulthood. In some jurisdictions, this action is necessary before arrangements for child support and visitation can be established through a court system.

By signing an acknowledgement of paternity, the male is affirming that the child is in fact his issue and that he is willing to take on the responsibilities of being a father to the child. While the document mainly deals with the legal aspects of this relationship, including making sure the child receives medical treatment when needed and ensuring the child has access to food, clothing, and shelter, there are also implied responsibilities that go along with these expressed and court regulated provisions. The expectation is that by acknowledging paternity, the male will also seek to establish a loving and emotionally supportive relationship with the child, assisting the mother in providing a nurturing environment that allows the child to feel safe and loved at all times.

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