Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
The quickest and easiest way to establish that a person is the legal father of a child is to complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. These forms are readily available at all hospitals. There are instructions and details about the legal effects on the form. The VAP requires that both parents execute the form in front of a witness and usually will take place after the child is born at the hospital where the child was delivered. If the VAP is not signed at the hospital, it is still possible for parents to execute a VAP at a future date. A VAP may also be signed before the birth of the child. By recognizing the father’s identity and signing the VAP, the father’s name will appear on the birth certificate and the VAP takes effect on the filing of the document with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. A parent child relationship can be established by the signing of a VAP, and a signed VAP is the equivalent of an adjudication of the parentage of a child and it confers on the father all rights and duties of a parent.
Once a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity has been signed, it can be rescinded within 60 days of its execution if either parent signs a Rescission of VAP form. Once the 60 day time period has lapsed, if no rescission has occurred, the man is legally deemed to be the father of the child. The only basis for challenging a VAP thereafter is by filing a petition in court and proving fraud, duress or material mistake of fact. While the case is pending, a court will not suspend the legal responsibilities of a person that signs a VAP, including his duty to pay child support. It is extremely difficult to challenge paternity once a VAP is signed and after the period of rescission has expired.
If you have a VAP, you can file an action in parentage court for child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time without the need to first establish paternity of the child, which can expedite the process substantially. Additionally, thanks to new laws in place, having the VAP can reduce or eliminate the court filing fees.
Because it is difficult to challenge a VAP, signing one can have severe consequences for both parties. Thus, a person should be fully informed of the legal meaning and effect of doing so before he or she signs a form legally recognizing the father’s identity.
Before you sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form, you should speak with an attorney to confirm that you understand what it means and how it will affect you. Additionally, if you have already signed a VAP and now want to challenge paternity, seek an allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, or seek child support, you should speak with an attorney who can assist you in achieving your goals. The attorneys of Kollias & Giese, P.C. are available to speak with you today regarding these issues.
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