At the hospital, upon the birth of a child to an unwed couple, a social worker may come up to the father and ask if he would like to sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (“VAP”) acknowledging that the child is his. Often people confuse this for the birth certificate and claim that they have “signed” the birth certificate, but no one signs the birth certificate. If you signed the VAP, then your name will appear on the birth certificate as the father of the child. There are several advantages and disadvantages to signing a VAP. One advantage is that you are automatically the legal father of the minor child and your paternity does not have to be established or proven at court. If there are issues with the mother of your child, you can always go into court with your VAP and request visitation or custody without having to prove that you are indeed the father. The same goes for child support, and you can be liable for child support from the time you signed the VAP. The filing fee for starting a case in court is waived if you have a signed VAP.
The major con of signing a VAP that you have waived your right to a DNA test, possibly forever. After 60 days, the VAP becomes a final determination of parentage, and is nearly impossible to undue. It has been done, however. One way to vacate a VAP is by obtaining a DNA test that excludes that father as the biological father. A Judge is not likely to grant a Motion for a DNA Test, however. It is more likely to obtain one by consent of the other party, or by purchasing a kit from the store and secretly swabbing your child’s saliva without the other parent finding out. With that DNA test in hand, you can petition the court to vacate the VAP based on fraud or misrepresentation of fact. However, if you knew the child was not biologically yours all along, and waited too long to get into court, the court may deny your request to vacate the VAP. Furthermore, only the father can go in and vacate a VAP he signed; a mother cannot go in and vacate a VAP even if the DNA test results show the child is not his.