In 1993, Congress enacted the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, which required states to create a simplified, administrative process for parents to voluntarily establish paternity in the hospital at the time of their child’s birth. The voluntary paternity acknowledgement process was enhanced again by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. Through PRWORA, Congress required unmarried parents to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity in order for the father’s name to be on the child’s birth certificate.
The signing of a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity is an unwed father’s first legal act of fatherhood; without it, he has none of the legal rights or responsibilities of parenthood. It is also a milestone opportunity for an unmarried father to demonstrate his commitment to his child. Paternity establishment is linked to higher levels of subsequent paternal involvement and support, as well as a host of positive child outcomes.
Fathers who pay child support also are more likely to spend time with and have a stronger influence on their children compared to fathers who do not pay child support. Without legal paternity establishment, however, the court cannot order the father to pay child support because they have no legal rights or responsibilities to their children. The Texas Office of the Attorney General – Child Support Division asked Dr. Cynthia Osborne and CFRP to study paternity establishment in Texas and provide recommendations about ways to expand paternity education, increase or sustain federal performance of paternity measures, and reduce the incidence of rescissions of paternity establishments. CFRP will determine the prenatal and parental factors that affect in‐hospital paternity establishment at the time of the child’s birth; ascertain when unmarried parents are most receptive to messages about paternity establishment; examine the association between in‐hospital paternity establishment and subsequent child support compliance or use of informal support; determine whether a father’s understanding of the paternity establishment process affects his future involvement with his child and compliance with child support; and establish the underlying motivations prompting paternity rescission filings.
Related Publications and Posts
- Family Strengthening: Father Involvement
- Fathers in Home Visiting
- Parenting and Paternity Awareness (p.a.p.a) Curriculum