Signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity Form
Hector: I’m not even sure I am the father.
Kenyon: This is my baby. I’m the father.
Amee: Why does my daughter need to know who her father is?
Nurse: Congratulations! Now that you have both signed the acknowledgment of paternity form Raymond’s name can appear on baby Zoe’s birth certificate.
Kenyon: Excuse me ma’am. We haven’t even gotten one of those paternity forms yet.
Nurse: Oh, the paternity form is only for people who aren’t married.
Kenyon: Well, we aren’t.
Nurse: Mrs. Gordon, right?
Zsalana: I’m Zsalana Gordon, but Mr. Gordon hasn’t even been around for three years. This is Canyon Smith –the father of my son Kenny.
Nurse: I don’t mean to be forward, but are you divorced from Mr. Gordon? Then I’m sorry, you can’t sign the paternity form.
Kenyon: What? Why?
Nurse: Even if a woman is separated when her baby is born, if she’s still married at the time of birth or at any time during the pregnancy her husband is automatically considered the legal father.
Kenyon: This is my baby. I’m the father!
Donovan: Hector? What’re you doing here?
Hector: Oh, hey Donovan, long time.
Donovan: Yeah, it’s been a while. Why are you here?
Hector: My girlfriend’s upstairs and just had a baby girl.
Donovan: Girlfriend? Baby? Everybody ok?
Hector: Sure, Iris is fine, and the baby’s the cutest I’ve ever seen.
Donovan: So … what’s the problem?
Hector: Ella es muy chula …she’s very cute and all. But I’m not really sure it’s mine. We were dating for a while, and then split up. Iris came back about a month ago, majorly pregnant and all, saying how happy she was to be having my kid.
Hector: And things have been going ok since she’s been back. I mean, I like her and all, but I’m not really sure I’m ready to be a father. I’m not even sure I am the father!
Birth Registrar: Hi. She’s beautiful.
Amee: Yeah… Beautiful. I want her to have a beautiful life… better than mine … all the good things.
Birth Registrar: I see you haven’t filled out an acknowledgment of paternity form.
Amee: Yeah...I’m not sure…anyway, I think we’d be better off just the two of us. I can take care of us.
Birth Registrar: I’m sure you two have a special bond, but there’s lots of good reasons to have the father sign the acknowledgment of paternity form.
Amee: Nah, there’s just too many complications. She and I will do fine.
Birth Registrar: Of course no one can make you sign the form, but it’s really best for her to know who her father is.
Donovan: Whew, that’s a lot to consider. If you have any doubts at all, don’t sign it.
Hector: But she’s all over me to sign it. She says she wasn’t with anyone else when we split. But some people have hinted that that’s not true.
Donovan: See? You’re not sure. Listen I don’t know all the legal stuff, but if you have questions you should at least talk to the people in the maternity unit. They can talk to you about paternity issues… or if not they can at least give you the phone number of the child support agency.
Angelo: Hector! How’s Iris?
Angelo: What? I like the pudding here. So, boy or girl?
Hector: Girl ... Chulita!~cutie~
Angelo: Nice. So why are you signing up with child support?
Hector: I’m not. Donovan was just saying the agency could answer any questions I had about signing the paternity form.
Angelo: Well, yeah. I pay child support for my son, but it wasn’t automatic. I signed a paternity form way back when he was born. I only had to start paying child support last year after she and I split and we went to family court.
Hector: So if child support isn’t automatically going to come after me, what’s wrong with signing it?
Donovan: If you have any doubts don’t, it’s a legal document. By signing it you waive your rights to a court hearing where a judge could order genetic tests that could prove that you are the biological father.
Hector: So, before I sign the acknowledgment form I have a right to DNA tests to actually prove whether or not I am really the father?
Angelo: Yes. As a matter of fact when my sister applied for child support services she was told because she and her boyfriend had not signed the acknowledgment form that the county department of social services would arrange for DNA tests and after the results they had an opportunity to sign the acknowledgment of paternity form.
Hector: Wow, that is really good to know.
Donovan: So if you have any doubts ....any “maybes” … you just shouldn’t sign it. Period. In case you don’t know, child support can last until a child is 21, and that’s an awful long time, especially if you are not sure the child is yours.
Kenyon: Yeah, but I want to sign it. I want my name to be on the birth certificate, I want to be there to see my son grow up, I want the whole world to know that … this is my son.
Zsalana: That is what I want too. We’re a family, and I want my son, our son, to have Kenyon’s last name. He’s definitely the father, it just can’t be anyone else.
Nurse: I can see that you two are committed to each other, and are ready to raise your son together, but under the law, because you are still married to Mr. Gordon, he‘s automatically considered the legal father. Since you’re legally still married, you can’t sign the paternity form.
Kenyon: So what do I have to do to claim my boy?
Nurse: You will have to go to court, since this paternity form is not a way for you to establish paternity. This paternity form is only for mothers who are not married at the time of the birth, or at any time during the pregnancy.
Zsalana: But we haven’t filled out the birth certificate yet. Can our son at least have Kenyon’s last name?
Nurse: Sure, baby Kenny can have the last name of either parent and the name won’t affect the legal status of the child. It’s just that Kenyon’s name can’t be listed as the father on the birth certificate unless you go to court.
Birth Registrar: I’m sure you have every intention of being the best mother in the entire world, but have you thought about how expensive it is to raise a baby?
Amee: Look, I have a job, and my family said they’ll help me watch her if I move back to town. So I really don’t think we need him right now.
Birth Registrar: Well, you may not need him right now, but she might need his help down the road. She might want or need to receive her father’s military allowances or life insurance or an inheritance.
Amee: So what if I list his name on the birth certificate, but don’t tell him?
Birth Registrar: Since the two of you aren’t married, his name can’t be on the birth certificate unless you both sign an acknowledgment of paternity form, or you go to court to establish paternity.
Hector: Well if I don’t have to sign it, why should I even think about signing it?
Donovan: Well, if it is your baby, you’ll want to establish your rights as a father.
Angelo: Sure! She already left you once, right?
Donovan: What happens if she moves out again in a year or five years? To protect your custody and visitation rights, you’ll have to be established as the legal father.
Angelo: Or what if she leaves in a month and decides to put the baby up for adoption? If you don’t establish that you’re the legal father, you don’t even have a say in that. Sure legal fathers have responsibilities, but they have rights too.
Donovan: That’s why you need to be absolutely sure before you sign that form. In fact, you may even want to consult with an attorney before you sign that form.
Angelo: If you sign that form now - like I did when my son was born, it has the same legal effect as if the court established paternity. So you have to be sure that you’re the father.
Amee: But I’ll love her enough. Why does my daughter need to know who her father is?
Birth Registrar: Fathers can provide financial support, of course, but more importantly kids also benefit emotionally from knowing who both parents are.
Amee: I really didn’t think about it that way. I don’t want a relationship with her dad, but some day she might.
Birth Registrar: Keep in mind, this is a court document intended to establish legal fatherhood. The process of acknowledging paternity will guarantee that your baby will have as many rights and privileges as children of married couples, so you should be sure before you sign the form.
Kenyon: So you’re telling me that even though we both admit that I am the father. I’m not seen that way in the eyes of the law?
Nurse: That’s right. Since Zsalana wasn’t legally divorced before baby Kenny was conceived the only other way for you to establish yourself as the legal father is to petition the court to disestablish Mr. Gordon as the legal father and then establish yourself as the legal father. But for right now, even though they’ve been separated a while, Zsalana’s husband Mr. Gordon is considered the legal father.
Kenyon: But the baby can at least have my last name on the birth certificate, right?
Nurse: That’s right baby Kenny can have your last name but your name can’t be added to the birth certificate until after the court hearing.
Birth Registrar: So, you’re going home this afternoon?
Amee: Yeah, my sister’s coming to pick me up. And you should know that I talked it over again with my sister, and she agreed with you that having him sign the acknowledgment of paternity form is the best thing for my daughter’s future. At least now this entitles her to any medical information or insurance benefits that are available through her father.
Birth Registrar: Absolutely. Completing the acknowledgment of paternity form is designed to protect the rights of everyone involved: mother, father, and baby.
Amee: Yeah, I know that now.
Angelo: So you going to show me that cute little girl?
Hector: Yeah sure
Donovan: So did you make a decision about the form?
Hector: I’m taking your advice, so we’ll see what happens. Thanks for all your help.
Donovan: No problem. Keep me posted huh?
Donovan: We just covered a lot of information about the “acknowledgment of paternity form.” And because it is just as important as an action taken in court – let’s spend a bit more time reviewing some of the facts about this process. This paternity form which is totally different from a birth certificate, and can only be signed after the baby has been born, and if the woman wasn’t married at any time during the pregnancy or birth.
Nurse: Even if a woman is separated when her baby is born, if she’s still married at the time of birth or anytime during her pregnancy, the law automatically considers her husband to be the legal father.
Birth Registrar: In addition, you should know that if you are on or are applying for public assistance, your refusal to sign the acknowledgment of paternity form will not be deemed a failure to cooperate in establishing paternity
Nurse: The paternity form legally establishes who the child’s father is, just like an order of paternity or filiation issued by a court. You should know that no further judicial or administrative proceedings are required to ratify an unchallenged acknowledgment of paternity.
Donovan: When the paternity form is filed with the registrar of the district where the birth certificate is filed, it establishes the child’s right to inheritance from the father in cases where the parents are not married to each other.
Birth Registrar: Either the mother, or father, has the right to rescind the acknowledgment of paternity by petitioning the court to vacate the acknowledgment of paternity form within the earlier of 60 days of signing the form or the date of an administrative or judicial proceeding related to the child in which either signatory is a party. For the purpose of figuring out how long you have to rescind, the date of an administrative or judicial proceeding is the date by which the respondent is required to answer the petition. If you are unsure of what that means you should contact your local child support agency.
Donovan: When a man voluntarily signs the acknowledgment of paternity form, he waives his right to a future court hearing to determine if he is the father.
Birth Registrar: If an acknowledgment of paternity is not completed, the father can only be held liable for support if after the hearing the court declares him the father and orders payment of support, which can be retroactive to the birth of the child. If you are made a respondent in a proceeding to establish paternity you have a right to free legal representation if the court finds you are indigent.
Nurse: If you sign the acknowledgment of paternity form at a hospital or with a birth registrar or social services agency, witnessed by two people unrelated to either of you, the original form will automatically be filed for you with the putative father registry.
Birth Registrar: The putative father registry may only release the names and addresses to a court or authorized agency or person by court order. But if both parents sign it after you leave the hospital, you must file the form with the registrar of the district in which the birth certificate has been filed and such filing will establish inheritance rights from the father.
Donovan: It is important to know that the father has the option to sign the paternity form in front of two witnesses even if the mother is not willing to sign the paternity form. In this case if the father files the paternity form with the putative father registry within 60 days of signing it such filing may establish the child’s right to inheritance from the putative father.
Nurse: Be sure you understand this important legal document because after 60 days have passed since you signed the form, you will need to prove fraud, duress or mistake-of-fact to challenge the acknowledgment of paternity in court. Please note that the burden of proof is on the person challenging the acknowledgment of paternity.
Birth Registrar: Completing the acknowledgment of paternity form is designed to protect the rights of everyone involved: mother, father and baby.
Nurse: I hope that this video has shown you how unmarried parents can legally establish paternity for their child.
Donovan: If you have any questions or doubts, do not sign the acknowledgment of paternity form. Talk to someone in the maternity unit before you leave the hospital. Or, later on, you can contact your local child support agency or birth registrar. You have a right to seek legal representation and supportive services, including counseling regarding the acknowledgment of paternity and this process.
Birth Registrar: Remember—acknowledging paternity is an important way to show you love your baby.
Nurse: And your baby deserves the best—two loving parents who will be there for life!