One way for a father to accept responsibility for his child is by signing an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) form after the child is born. The acknowledgment of paternity guarantees a father certain rights. However, there are other parental rights that are not guaranteed by signing an acknowledgment of paternity. Let's explore more information regarding parental rights as it pertains to the acknowledgment of paternity.
Purpose of an AOP
An unmarried father should sign an acknowledgment of paternity form to establish legal paternal rights to a child. Without a signed AOP, an unmarried father does not have rights to a child and would have to go to court to establish paternity at a later time. If parents cannot agree on signing an acknowledgment of paternity, they may need to later participate in a court hearing in order to establish paternity. If paternity is proven after the birth certificate is issued, the certificate can be changed based on the court's findings.
Contents of an AOP
An acknowledgment of paternity will require some basic information including the child's full name, mother's full name, and father's full name. The father's date of birth, address, and Social Security number are also needed. The AOP must be signed and notarized by both parents. Some states require the AOP to be witnessed by two uninterested parties.
Rights Guaranteed by Signing an AOP
By signing the AOP, certain legal paternal rights are established. The father will have the guaranteed right to be responsible for child support, the right to use his last name for the child on the child's birth certificate, and the right to be consulted in the event of an adoption proceeding regarding the child.
Rights Not Guaranteed by Signing an AOP
There are certain rights that are not guaranteed when signing an acknowledgment of paternity. One is child custody—in most states, parents who sign an AOP are not guaranteed the right to child custody. If a father wants to seek custody of a child, he will have to do so in a separate procedure.
Another is the right to visitation. A father who signs an AOP is not guaranteed visitation rights. If a father wants to seek visitation rights of a child, he will have to do so in a separate court procedure.
Where to Find an AOP
Parents can voluntarily sign an AOP at the hospital or facility when a baby is born. Paternity may also be established at a later point after the child is born—parents can complete the AOP by forwarding the documentation to the appropriate state agency that handles vital records.
Parents who would like more information should visit additional resources about paternity and child support and child custody. For other specific state information, parents should speak with a qualified attorney in their state.