What is Paternity Fraud?

Can Someone Who is Not the Biological Father Sign the Birth Certificate?

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we will answer the question, “can someone who is not the biological father sign the birth certificate of a minor child?“  We will also explain what happens as a result of a non-biological father signing the birth certificate.  We will answer the questions, “what is paternity fraud?” and “what can happen as a result of paternity fraud?”  For some foundational information on paternity law generally, check out our article, Illinois Paternity Law Explained.

What is Paternity Fraud?

If someone who is not the biological father signs the birth certificate, it is considered paternity fraud. Paternity fraud commonly occurs from these instances:

  • a mother is unsure who the father is but tells a current or former partner he is the father,
  • the mother knows when a man isn’t the father but tells him he is so he’ll sign the birth certificate, or
  • both the man and mother know he is not the biological father but they agree he’ll sign the birth certificate anyway. All of these instances amount to paternity fraud and are illegal, as the birth certificate is a legal document.

When a man signs the birth certificate, he is acknowledging he is the legal and biological father of the child. His signing indicates he’s agreeing to paternity and the legal responsibility of being a father, meaning the obligation of paying child support. Therefore, regardless if the man is the biological father or not, he has legally established himself as the father.

In the case of paternity fraud, there can be a few victims:

  • the man who believes himself to be the biological father,
  • the actual biological father, and
  • the innocent child who is subject to all of it.

What Can Happen as a Result of Paternity Fraud?

If the man who signed the birth certificate because he believes he was the biological father of the child finds out that he is, in fact, not the biological father, he may have a case to terminate a paternity acknowledgment, in which case, he should contact an experienced family attorney immediately. A court may terminate a paternity acknowledgment and order an amendment to the birth certificate if the father can prove that the mother committed fraud.

It’s important to note that proving a mother committed fraud is not the same as a mother who mistakenly names a father who’s later revealed to not be the biological father. To have a case for paternity fraud, the man must prove the mother knew the man was not the father but told him that he was, and that he agreed to sign the birth certificate based on the mother’s statement. Evidence of fraud could include the mother telling the man after he signed the birth certificate that he isn’t the biological father either verbally or in writing, or telling the same to a third party who is willing to serve as a witness.

If a man’s intent is proving the mother committed fraud, it’s important that he also identifies and locates the biological father. A court will be concerned with the financial support of the child and may not invalidate a paternity acknowledgment if that leaves the child without the child support he or she needs. Although paternity fraud is illegal, typically the mother will not face any punishment as the court is primarily concerned as what is in the best interest of the child.

Other Options for a Man Who Wants to be the Father

If a man and woman are together and the woman is pregnant with another man’s child, but the couple wants to raise the child as the family, they still should not have the man sign the birth certificate. For one, the biological father (if still living) could always learn the child is his and decides to file with a court to establish paternity. Second, the couple would be committing paternity fraud.

The proper legal course of action in this instance is for the man to file for adoption of the child once the child is born. The mother and potential adoptive father would have to find the biological father and notify him of their intent, and ask him to legally relinquish his paternity rights to the child.

If a man is uncertain whether he is the biological father of the child, he should not sign the birth certificate. Once he does sign the birth certificate and legally acknowledges he is the father of the child, it can be very difficult to invalidate his paternity acknowledge depending on the circumstances. In the case of paternity fraud, the child is the one who may end up suffering the worse emotionally as he or she may not have a relationship with their biological father.

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What Can Happen as a Result of Paternity Fraud?

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