Though a birth certificate is a legal document that serves as an identification and certification tool, it does not establish a father’s paternal status when the child’s parents are unmarried. Correspondingly, being named as a child’s father on a birth certificate does not automatically bestow rights and responsibilities upon the named father.
Instead, unwed mothers and fathers have to perform certain procedures to establish paternity in Louisiana.
By signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit
Typically, when there is no dispute between the child’s unmarried parents, the father can simply fill out and sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit (AOP) either at the hospital upon the child’s birth, the vital records office or at the local child support office. As long as the affidavit’s completion is voluntary, the document establishes paternity and allows the father to exercise his rights and responsibilities, including seeking child custody and visitation time.
By petitioning the court for a paternity order
Another way to establish a father’s legal parentage is by filing a paternity suit with the court. This method is usually appropriate when there is a dispute between the parents and the court’s intervention is necessary. Mothers who seek child support and fathers who want to acquire paternal rights can file the petition.
A process that requires guidance
While establishing paternity seems straightforward, it requires thorough preparation, especially if parties decide to take the legal approach. Parties have to prepare for all possible scenarios, such as dealing with disputes from the other party and DNA testing upon the court’s order. Hence, careful preparation and proper guidance are necessary.