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Understanding the legality of an “Acknowledgment of Paternity”

When addressing legal matters, commonly accepted definitions of social terms may not suffice and adhering to specified legal procedures may be necessary. While most Pulaski, Arkansas, residents and those living elsewhere in the United States may find no apparent distinction between a biological parent and a legal parent, these two adjectives defining parenthood can be different and it is often very important to be recognized by law as a parent.

For two legally married parents, their identities as father and mother are automatically established and acknowledged on the child’s birth certificate. When a father is not recognized by law as the spouse of a mother, it is essential that the father voluntarily accept paternity, done by filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, which is signed by both parents. However, in the event the mother is wedded to someone other than the biological father, the AOP can be used to legally identify the biological father.

The AOP is a legal document and can be rescinded and amended in the event of a later disagreement or a dispute over the child’s paternity. If necessary, the mother can request DNA testing of a man assumed to be the father. Based on the results, an AOP can be filed affirming the identity of the father. Equally, the test can be used to identify that a man is not the child’s father, if an AOP is already on file. Any other document reflecting paternity, such as a birth certificate, can then be modified accordingly.

It should be noted that the AOP does not automatically give a father legal rights, such as child custody and visitation. A separate court order needs to be obtained for these fathers’ rights. Also, since married couples are not required to sign an AOP, denying paternity in some cases may become a legal wrangle, often resulting in partners fighting it out in court.

Source:, “Paternity,” Accessed Oct. 31, 2014

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