In the case of unwed parenthood, the purported father can acknowledge his paternity by signing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Once this is accomplished in writing, the court considers it as conclusive evidence establishing paternity and uses this affirmation as the basis to order custody, support, or any other appropriate action.
Both the mother and father sign the acknowledgement, which, in most jurisdictions, is recorded on the child’s birth certificate. By itself, a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity does not establish issues like custody, visitation rights, and child support, but the acknowledgement can be used in court proceedings on those issues.
Only the natural birth parents should sign an acknowledgement of paternity. Misrepresentation of paternity has legal consequences. It is very difficult to withdraw an acknowledgement if a father later changes his mind.
On the other hand, when a man believed to be the father of a child refuses to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, in most states, the mother can bring a court action to establish paternity. Paternity can be determined by DNA testing, and the test results can then be used in issues such as custody, visitation rights, and child support.