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Kevin O'Flaherty

When someone who is not the biological father signs the birth certificate, it is paternity fraud. Paternity fraud occurs when someone other than the true parent is declared or identified as such and they then become responsible for providing child support, custody rights, and medical decision-making authority over inheritance matters. 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 in 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 of whether 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 intends to prove 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 to what is in the best interest of the child. In instances where there is no father on the birth certificate you may want to read our article, What Can a Father Do If His Name is Not on the Birth Certificate?

Challenging Paternity After Signing the Birth Certificate

When signing a birth certificate, it may be difficult to challenge paternity due to the laws regarding time limits and legal responsibilities. To make sure one does not become liable for being viewed as another’s child’s father legally, refusing your name on their record of birth and requesting an analysis are recommended steps. It is wise to consult with a family law lawyer in order to understand what needs to be fulfilled locally when pursuing this action.

Filing motions that reject accepting parentage voluntarily or getting data from DNA tests will also aid those wanting reassurance about biological parenthood after they have signed the baby’s delivery declaration registry.

Statute of Limitations

When it comes to legally challenging paternity, the timeframe in which this must be done varies depending on the state.

Action needs to be taken within two years or less and some states don’t even have a statute of limitations meaning that a suit can still be brought up after the child has reached maturity. Conversely, there are other places with set limits like three years from birth or an allotted number determined by their law system starting at delivery date.

Legal Steps to Challenge Paternity

When disputing paternal parentage, legal requirements must be complied with. This may incorporate DNA testing and court submissions. To dispute his acknowledged paternity, a man first needs to file an official complaint in the courts, which can then ask for genetic analysis as proof of actual kinship between father and child.

DNA examinations are crucial when challenging paternity because they offer accurate results regarding biological ties between parties involved. It is often employed legally in order to discern who really is the dad of any given kid while also questioning those brought forth by traditional tests pertaining to paternity matters.

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.

Navigating the Family Court System

Guardian Ad Litem

In family court, a guardian ad litem is typically appointed to assess any disputes involving child custody, support payments, adoption procedures and the emancipation of minors. They will look into the situation impartially with an aim towards upholding what they determine to be in that particular child’s best interests during proceedings in front of a judge.

To gain this role, one must usually complete specific training requirements as well as adhere to state rules (possibly even including being licensed attorneys), depending on their jurisdiction. Guardians can make demands for paternity tests if needed when assessing such cases relating to families before going forward with possible recommendations for courts judgement.

Best Interest Standard

The best interest standard is a court-applied concept whereby decisions made in regards to the child’s life must be determined through what will provide them with the most benefit. Multiple elements are considered by the court when assessing this such as their physical and mental health, every parent’s capacity for maintaining stability and offering nurturing care, any pre-existing relationship between parent(s)and children involved or potential abuse/neglect history. The main priority of judicial ruling should serve the child not necessarily in line with parental wishes. Thus making sure that all custody arrangements are suitable according to each situation at hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does signing a birth certificate make you the father?

The act of signing a birth certificate alone is not enough to declare oneself as the father. Instead, completing and submitting a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit must be done in order to make this relationship official.

What if I'm not the dad?

If you have doubts that you are the biological father, it is possible to take a paternity test and find out. If results demonstrate lack of paternity, then one can obtain an order that verifies this information and reflects the change on the birth certificate accordingly. Doing so will help keep your paternal rights in check while accurately reporting who is legally linked with whom at birth.

Is it illegal to have a baby and not tell the father?

There is no legal necessity for a mother to notify the father about her baby. If she decides not to inform him of their child’s existence, then it could affect what options are available.

How can a man challenge paternity after signing the birth certificate?

A man who has signed the birth certificate can challenge paternity by filing a motion to undo his voluntary acknowledgment of it, or requesting that a DNA test be used in order to prove biological ties relating back to the child’s birth.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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