In my previous post on Paternity issues, I mentioned that there are two ways for an individual to be established as a child’s parent: voluntarily or by court order. This post explains the process of voluntarily acknowledging paternity, and the rights and responsibilities that come along with this acknowledgement.
Your first opportunity to acknowledge your paternity takes place at the hospital when your child is born. At this point, both parents may sign a notarized “Acknowledgment of Parentage” form . If both parents sign this form (and neither rescinds their acknowledgement within 60 days), the acknowledgement has the same legal effect as an Order of Paternity. It is important to note that there is only a 60 day window for rescission. This is why it is so important that both parents be certain about the acknowledgement prior to signing.
If you voluntarily acknowledge your paternity and 60 days pass, establishing yourself as anything other than your child’s parent is incredibly difficult. There is only a one year window where the courts will allow a change to be made, and even then, they will only allow changes if a parent can show that the voluntary acknowledgment was the result of fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact. For the record, foregoing Genetic Marker Testing because you were certain of the fact you were the father is not a material mistake of fact.
Once you have voluntary acknowledged paternity, you are that child’s parent, regardless of whether or not that is the biological truth. This comes with all the attendant rights and responsibilities and should not be taken lightly.