Power of Two

Voluntary paternity establishment

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This video explains voluntary paternity establishment through the recognition of parentage process.

A voluntary recognition of parentage form allows unmarried parents to establish a legal father (paternity) for their child.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services produced this video for unmarried parents to watch when they consider establishing paternity for their child at the hospital.

Hello, and welcome to a special video presentation on establishing paternity. This video is designed to help unmarried parents make an important decision regarding the legal fatherhood of their new child. A child born to unwed parents does not have a legal father. Therefore, the father's name cannot be put on the birth certificate unless both he and the mother sign a paternity acknowledgment form.

In this video, we'll explain what paternity is, describe the benefits of paternity for your child, show you how easy it is to establish paternity, and what to do if you're still not sure. The good news is that acknowledging paternity is very easy to do, as you will discover in the next few minutes.


There you are.

Are you [INAUDIBLE]? Do you want to ride?

In one minute, my biggest worry was what I was going to go on Saturday night. And then my girlfriend has a baby, and I got all this pressure on me.

My sister had a kid and moved him with my mom for help. But I don't want to rely on her to raise my child for me.

Well, I just never got around to signing a paternity form. And now because of that, I don't even have the legal right to visit my own son.

Not having a father always felt like there was a part of me missing or something. I had my mom, my sisters, my friends, and stuff, but I really missed knowing my father and having him around for me. I want to make sure that doesn't happen with my son.

(SINGING) Its the power of two. Power of two. Nothing like the power of two. Its the power of two. Power of two. Nothing like the power of two.

Meet Mark, Janet, and Brian. Like most new parents, they all face the same confusing mixture of joy, fear, and uncertainty that comes with the birth of the new baby. As unmarried parents, they also face the critical question, how do they protect their baby's future?

Well, one of the most important decisions that unwed parents can make is to voluntarily establish their child's paternity, ideally right at birth in the hospital. This action alone will help to ensure that children of unwed parents receive the same kind of support and opportunities afforded children of married parents.


Paternity is the same thing as legal fatherhood. Establishing paternity or legal fatherhood is the process of establishing a legal relationship between a father and his child. When a child is born to married parents, both the father's and mother's names are automatically entered on the child's birth certificate.

But in cases where parents are not married, only the mother's name is added to the child's birth certificate until the man has established legal fatherhood or paternity. The easiest way to do this is for both parents to voluntarily sign a paternity acknowledgment form right at the hospital.

When Stephanie was born, I was living with my boyfriend. So I just assumed that since we lived together that he would automatically be considered the father. But the truth is when you have a baby and you're not married, the man is not considered the legal parent, even if you live together.

Mark faced a similar problem. He became a father at the age of 19 with his girlfriend at the time. At 26, he's in danger of never seeing his 7-year-old son again.

Yeah, I mean, we were planning on get married. But I lost my job, and things just fell apart. We broke up. And because I didn't establish paternity then, now I got to go to court and get the right to see my own son.

As unmarried parents, both Mark and Janet would have benefited by signing the voluntary paternity acknowledgement form. Why? Because signing the form creates a parent-child relationship between the whole father and child. What this does is grant the child the same rights as a child born within a marriage.

Voluntarily acknowledging paternity is fast, easy, and free, and you don't have to go to court. The benefits are numerous for both parents as well as the child.


When you're young, you don't think about things like medical coverage or social security benefits. But I saw what happened when my mom raised me. I want to make sure my son is protected.

Brian is one of thousands of fathers all across the country who voluntarily acknowledge paternity each year. But just how does acknowledging paternity protect your child? Consider these examples.

My son needed a bone marrow transplant when he was only a year old, and my boyfriend and I, we never got married. But because we signed the paternity form, the doctor was able to get the information from Dave, my ex-boyfriend, on his medical history. Turned out Dave could be the donor, and that saved my son's life.

Even though her mom and I aren't together anymore, I still try to see my daughter Amy as much as I can. Her mom recently lost her job, lost her medical insurance, And she was really worried because Amy has asthma, and she needs a lot of medical care. But since I'd signed the paternity form, that made me legally the father. So we were able to get Amy covered under my medical insurance.

It's not something that you think about when your baby's first born. But now, I'm so glad that I signed it.

Five years after we broke up, my boyfriend was killed. Because he signed the paternity from, our daughter was entitled to his social security benefits. And she inherited some money, too.

Let's face it. No one can predict the future. But doesn't it make sense to protect your child now? Acknowledging paternity means that a child can receive child support and become eligible for coverage under his father's medical insurance for social security benefits, inheritance rights, and access to medical records. These things may not matter to you now, but they can make a big difference in your child's future.

And we're not just talking about the legal rights and benefits. There's also the emotional rewards.


It was important to me that my son know who his father is, and that Brian's name was on the birth certificate. The paternity form did that. It was easy, quick, and didn't cost us anything.

I grew up without a dad, so I've had some experience in that area. Making sure my son is protected and supported is the most important thing to me. It's a great feeling to look at my son and know that that's my son. He's a part of me. There's no feeling like it.

The bottom line is that by acknowledging paternity, everyone wins. The father gets the reassurance that he is the legal father with all the associated rights. For the mother, she knows that there will be someone there to share in the financial and emotional support needed to raise the child. And the child enjoys the benefits of having both parents sharing in the joy and responsibility of raising a healthy and happy child.

Now you've seen the benefits, we'll take a look at how the process of establishing paternity actually works.

You'll be given the paternity form in the hospital. All hospitals are legally required to offer unwed parents the opportunity to sign a paternity acknowledgment at the time of their child's birth.

You will be presented with oral and written informational materials and a voluntary paternity acknowledgment form. When both parents sign the form, paternity is legally established. But in order for it to be valid, both parents need to sign. At this time, the man will also need to show proof of his identity. Then, the form will be notarized or witnessed by another person, such as a hospital representative.

Later, the hospital staff will process the form with the state vital records office to make sure the father's name appears on the child's birth certificate. Once the form is signed, either parent has up to 60 days to withdraw the acknowledgment. This is done by submitting a signed rescission form to the state vital records office. After the rescission form is filed, the man is no longer considered the legal father.

But keep in mind that if either parent changes their mind after the 60 days are up, they would find it very difficult to convince the court to overturn the paternity acknowledgment. At that stage, it's pretty final.


Everyone was showing us what to do, how to prepare for the baby, telling us we're too young, you got to get married, all this stuff. Signing the paternity form was the first thing we did that was actually easy. We both signed the forms and we protected both of our rights as parents until our kid turns 18.

Now that you know how the process works, you may still have questions about whether establishing paternity is the right choice for you. Here are a couple things to consider.

First, signing the voluntary paternity acknowledgment form does not automatically guarantee visitation rights, custody, or child support. For each of these, a separate agreement or a court action is required. For most parents, these rights and responsibilities can be agreed upon without going to court. After all, the child is going to need the support and involvement of both parents for the support and nurturing he or she requires.

But remember that by signing the paternity acknowledgment, you create the legal basis for establishing these rights and responsibilities. That is why if either the mother or man is not entirely sure who the biological father is, they should not sign the paternity papers. Instead, you might want to consider having a genetic test to prove whether or not the man is the biological father.

Genetic tests are a common practice performed in one of two ways, either with a painless q-tip like swab inside the mouth of the mom, the dad, and child, or through a small sample of blood drawn from all three. Unwed parents who are interested in genetic testing should contact their local child support enforcement agency for further information.

If you're still not ready to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, the option will always be there up until your child turns 18. There are several agencies that can help you with paternity establishment. You can contact your local child support office or office of vital statistics.

Of course, if you are receiving or will be applying for public assistance, you will be expected to cooperate with government officials in identifying your child's father and establishing legal paternity.

Well, we're not married, and we don't have any plans on getting married, but my son's always going to know I'm there for him. Signing that paternity form lets my son know that his daddy loves him, and I'm always going to be there for him.

As you made your own decision regarding paternity, consider these important points covered in the video. First, fathers make a difference. Second, every child deserves a mother and a father. Third acknowledging paternity is fast, easy, and free. And finally, by acknowledging paternity, you establish your legal right to share in the joys and responsibilities of parenthood.

Acknowledging paternity that they will give your child the complete benefits of having both parents now and in the future. That's the power of two, and it could be the greatest gift you give your child.


(SINGING) It's the power of two. The power of two. Nothing like the power of two. It's the power of two. The power of two. Nothing like the power of two. The power of two.


Your child deserves the best you can offer, including the love and support of both parents. Making sure your child has a legal father is a wonderful gift. Parenthood is a bond that ties mothers and fathers to their children forever. In Minnesota, the easiest a way to establish parentage for your child is by signing the voluntary recognition of parentage form.

You can sign the recognition of parentage any time after your child is born. Both you and the other parent must sign the same form, but you do not have to sign it at the same time. A notary public must witness each signature.

Signing and filing the recognition of parentage form is free. However, the Minnesota Department of Health may charge you a fee to update your child's birth record with the legal father's information if you sign the form after your child's birth record is filed.

Any parent regardless of age can sign a recognition of parentage. If you and the other parent are age 18 or older when you sign the recognition of parentage, signing the form is the same as a court order determining the legal relationship between the father and child.

If either you or the other parent is under age 18 when you sign the recognition of parentage, signing the form only presumes parentage. However, 6 months after the youngest parent turns 18, the recognition of parenthood automatically becomes the same as a court order determining the legal relationship between the father and a child unless either parent files an action in court to prevent it.

Establishing parentage does not automatically give the father custody or visitation. It does give him the right to ask the court for visitation or custody of his children. If you are not sure who the biological father is or if you feel pressured to sign, you should not sign the recognition of parentage.

When you sign the recognition of parentage forms, you give up the right to have blood or genetic testing to prove that the man is the biological father of the child, to have an attorney represent you, to a trial to determine if the man is the biological father of the child, to cross-examine witnesses at a trial, to testify about who is the biological father of the child.

If either you or the other parent changes your mind after you sign the voluntary recognition of parentage form, you must sign and file a revocation within 60 days to cancel it. You can revoke the recognition of parenthood by signing a revocation form or by writing on a piece of paper that you are revoking the recognition of parentage, then signing the paper in front of a notary public and then filing it with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.

Staff at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Department of Health, County Offices, and Hospital can help you voluntarily establish parentage, but they cannot give you legal advice. Before signing the recognition of parentage form, you should understand your rights and responsibilities as a parent.

If you still have questions about the recognition of parentage after you view this videotape and you read the handbook or have someone else read it to you, please contact your county child support office or the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

You gave your child life. Now you can make sure your child has a legal father. Parentage is a wonderful gift. Establishing parentage is an opportunity for you to celebrate the most beautiful gift you'll ever receive, the gift of parenthood.

For more information, contact the Minnesota Department of Human Services at 651-296-2542 in the Twin City metro area, or call toll-free at 800-657-3954. Access for the hearing impaired is available through the Minnesota Relay Service at 800-627-3529. You can also visit us on the web.

First Published: 02/21/2013
Last Reviewed: 02/21/2013