The Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Program was established by Federal Law in 1988. Federal laws relating to this program have been updated several times since 1988 to ensure an easy process is in place to assist unwed parents in legitimating and establishing paternity for their child.

It means a “legal” father has been named for your child.

In Georgia, a father who has established paternity for his child but has not legitimated the child is unable to pursue custody and visitation issues. Also, unless a child is “legitimate”, he may be unable to collect insurance benefits or inherit from the father’s estate.

Unwed parents are given the opportunity to sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment (PA) form at or near the time of a child’s birth. The PA form, when properly completed, helps establish the father and child relationship when the biological father is not married to the mother. It creates certain legal responsibilities for the mother, father and child.

Unwed parents are provided an opportunity to sign a Voluntary PA form in the hospital when their child is born. After leaving the birthing hospital, parents may complete and submit the form to the State Office of Vital Records. Both parents’ signatures must be witnessed by a notary public.

By signing this document, the parents are establishing the right of the child to certain benefits including:

  • Two parents with whom the child can establish an emotional bond
  • Two parents who will share a legal responsibility to financially support the child
  • Two parents whose names will appear on the birth certificate
  • The ability to receive social security and other benefits from the father, if needed

There are certain rights and responsibilities associated with signing the PA form:

  • Signing the form is strictly voluntary
  • One should not sign the PA unless he is confident he is the biological father
  • By signing the PA, it will be presumed by law that he is the father of the child and the child's birth certificate will be issued to reflect this fact
  • By signing the PA, the father has the right to a notice of an adoption proceeding or a     proceeding to terminate the rights of a biological father who is not the legal father
  • By signing the PA, the father is accepting the responsibility to provide child support and medical insurance until the child is eighteen (18) years of age, or beyond in some cases
  • After signing the PA, either the mother or the father may rescind (cancel) the acknowledgment within sixty (60) days of the date of the signature on the PA form or up to the date of an order establishing paternity, whichever occurs first
  • If the PA isn’t rescinded (cancelled) within sixty (60) days of the signature on the PA form, the father will have given up his rights to DNA testing

If both parents fail to sign the PA before leaving the hospital or birthing facility, only the mother's name and the child's name will be entered on the birth certificate.

The PA may be signed at a later date. At that time, the certificate of birth will be amended to enter the name of the father.

The PA may be completed and signed at a local Vital Records office in the county where the child was born or the State Vital Records Office in Atlanta. For information on how to rescind (cancel) a signed PA form, contact the Vital Records Office. The PA, once completed and signed in the presence of a witness, will be forwarded to the State Vital Records Service where it will be entered into the State Putative Father Registry.

If a decision is made to cancel the Paternity Acknowledgment within the 60 days allowed by law, the rescission will not cause or allow an amendment to the birth certificate. To have the father's name removed from the birth certificate or to make changes to the child's surname, you will need a certified copy of a court order directing Vital Records to amend the birth certificate. The court order must specifically state the name to be removed from the birth certificate (if someone other than the father is listed as the child’s father on the certificate OR if “unknown” is listed) AND the name of the person to be entered as the father on the certificate [O.C.G.A. § 31-10-23(c)(2)].

After the 60-day rescission period has ended, the signed PA will constitute a legal determination of paternity and may be challenged in a court of law only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof on the person challenging the acknowledgment.