Legal fatherhood is very important for a child. Your child will not have a legal father if you are not married to the child's other parent. If that is the case, you need to sign a paternity acknowledgement form in the hospital when the child is born, at the office of the city or town clerk, or at the office of the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) to establish paternity. You can also ask a court to establish paternity. When parents establish legal paternity, it gives the child an identity and establishes connection to the families of both parents.
Importance of Establishing Paternity
Paternity provides an identity to the child. There are a number of diseases and characteristics that are passed on genetically from parents to the child. The doctors can use the accurate information about the medical history of both parents' family to treat or take adequate precautions against any problem that the child may have inherited. Establishing paternity makes both the parents committed to support their child as much as possible. It also makes the child eligible for coverage under both parents' health insurance and inheritance benefits.
When the parents are not married to each other, it requires both the parents to sign a paternity acknowledgement form, called the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage to establish paternity for the child. After both the parents sign the form, their signatures are checked by a notary and the legal fatherhood is established. The parents can sign this form at the hospital, soon after the baby is born, taking help from the birth registrar available at the hospital. If the parents fail to sign the form before they leave the hospital, they can complete the paternity acknowledgement form and file it at the office of the city or town's clerk, in the child's place of birth. The clerk charges a fee for this. You can also complete the form at the RVRS, irrespective of the location of birth of the child. There is also a fee associated with this process.
Going to Court to Establish Paternity
A parent, the child or DOR can approach the court to establish the child's paternity. The judge orders the biological mother, the father and the child to take paternity tests. Paternity tests are painless, easy and fast. The judge analyses the results of the tests and determines whether the man is the biological father of the child or not. If the test shows that the man is the biological father, this establishes paternity. The father's name is then entered into the child's birth certificate. If the man named as the child's father does not appear before the court, the judge uses other methods like the mother's testimony to establish legal fatherhood of the child.
Undoing Paternity Acknowledgement
Within 60 days of signing the acknowledgement form, either parent can file a complaint declaring the form null and void with the probate and family court. The court then orders paternity tests. Within two months of signing the paternity acknowledgement form, the paternity acknowledgement can be undone If the parent who inquires about the paternity attends the court hearing regarding the child's paternity and raises a problem about it at the hearing. After 60 days of signing, the acknowledgement becomes a judgment of paternity and exercises the same legal effect. The court follows this up by ordering paternity tests.