When a married couple has a child, it’s assumed that the father is the spouse of the pregnant woman. If two people aren’t married when their child is born, no assumptions about paternity are made. To establish paternity, a father will need to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Notably, this document doesn’t guarantee custody—it simply opens the door for those who may wish to seek it.
Establishing paternity is important. For mothers, it means that they’ll be able to pursue the child support they need from their child’s father. For fathers, establishing paternity provides them with the crucial rights when it comes to raising their child. Paternity means that a person can obtain custody, visitation, and have a say in important life decisions involving their child.
In some instances, a court might be required to establish paternity. This is especially true if a mother or father isn’t being cooperative with the process. When parents can work together, establishing paternity is as simple as signing a form.
How to Sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form
Establishing who is the legal father of a child doesn’t require going to court. The process only needs to have both parents sign and notarize the state’s official form.
There are three locations where a paternity acknowledgement form can be signed:
- At the hospital: Parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form at the hospital when a child is born. To do this, a couple will need assistance from a hospital worker known as the birth registrar. When this document is completed at a hospital, there is no fee associated with it.
- At a city or town clerk’s office: It’s okay if you didn’t sign a paternity acknowledgement form at the hospital. Simply head to the clerk’s office in the city or town your child was born in. Here, a clerk can have both parents sign the form and notarize it. In some instances, clerks charge a fee for filing.
- At the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS): In Massachusetts, the RVRS is an office that handles vital records from 1926 to the present. Parents can go here to sign a paternity form. Visit the RVRS website to learn more about fees associated with having this form completed there.
When the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form is completed and notarized, the man who signed the form becomes a child’s legal father. Importantly, this form can be completed at any point during a child’s life.
When You Shouldn’t Sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity
This form shouldn’t be signed if either party has questions about who a child’s biological father is. In this case, it can simplify the process if a paternity test is performed. Additionally, you should never sign this form if you are unsure if you should acknowledge paternity. Speaking with a family law attorney can help clarify some of the legal questions you have about this decision and process.
Can You Undo a Paternity Acknowledgement in MA?
Yes. While a person’s legal fatherhood begins the day a form is signed, there is a 60-day period that either party can ask a court to rescind it. Filing a complaint with a family court asking its judge to cancel the acknowledgement is the best way to do this.
During the initial 60-day period, if a person is in court for issues involving their child, they must inform the court that there’s an issue with a child’s paternity. If a person fails to inform a court about this, the 60-day period is invalidated, and the agreement becomes legally binding.
If it has been more than 60 days since a paternity acknowledgement was signed, the document is legally binding and is harder to undo. A person can challenge a paternity acknowledgement if they do so in court within one year of signing it.
Reasons a court might undo a paternity acknowledgement include:
- Mistake of fact
Call (508) 502-7002 for Help with Your Paternity Issues
If you’re having problems with the establishment of paternity for your child, help is available. At Miller Law Group, P.C., our team focuses on Massachusetts family law and has helped clients through all sorts of issues involving it. We can guide you through the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity process. Or, if one parent is being resistant, we can help establish paternity through the courts.
Call our Massachusetts family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation at (508) 502-7002. We’re standing by to answer your questions and help you find solutions to paternity problems in Massachusetts.