Prevent Paternity Fraud
Have doubts that you are the father of your pregnant partner’s child? The most important action you can take to prevent paternity fraud is to request a DNA test at the hospital to confirm that you are the father BEFORE you sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.
In most jurisdictions, genetic testing is not required to establish paternity; all that is required is a signed VAP form. VAP forms are available for fathers to sign at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.
If the VAP is not rescinded within 60 days, the VAP is a binding determination of paternity. Thereafter, your acknowledgment of paternity of the child may only be challenged in court on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.
The VAP includes a waiver of the right to paternity (DNA) testing. By signing the VAP, the man is declaring to all, including child support enforcement agencies, that he is the father of the child.
However, the VAP does not establish a father’s parental rights; rather, a father will have to initiate separate custody proceedings to pursue parental or visitation rights.
The VAP includes various warnings and disclaimers so it is important that you read the entire document. By signing the document, you are stating that you read and understood each of the provisions.
Because there are strict guidelines for rescinding the VAP, if you signed a VAP and do not believe you are the father, contact an attorney immediately.
But what if you never signed the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form and paternity was still established? Many fathers do not learn that paternity was established until after they start seeing a deduction for child support out of their paycheck.
In some states, paternity can be established by default if the alleged father does not respond to the action, which may have been mailed to an address he has not lived at in years. In this situation, the mom stated in court that he was the father and because he was not there to deny it, the default paternity was ordered.
Additionally, when a child is born during a marriage, most states have a presumption that the husband of the mother is the father of the child. In each of these cases, the men never had to sign anything stating they were the fathers.
Each state has different guidelines for contesting paternity in default paternity actions and in marital presumption cases. If you are in this unfortunately common situation, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in your state immediately to explore your options.
The Cordell & Cordell Law Firm handles many domestic litigation issues, including paternity. Contact the Cordell and Cordell office nearest you or learn more information about paternity laws on DadsDivorce.com.
By Erica Christian
Mens Divorce Attorney, Cordell & Cordell