Does Signing a Birth Certificate Establish Paternity in Oklahoma?
Updated: Feb 14
Many clients have asked me, “The dad is named on the birth certificate, does that make him the father?” In general, the answer is no. Signing a birth certificate, alone, does not establish paternity in Oklahoma. However, there are certain instances where signing a birth certificate would help a person become recognized as the father.
When being named on the birth certificate would help establish paternity:
There are two circumstances, in which being named on a child’s birth certificate would be relevant to establishing paternity:
1. If the father and the mother were not married when the child was born, but married each other after the child was born, and the father asserted his paternity of the child, and the father agreed to be named and is named on the child’s birth certificate.
2. If a paternity proceeding is brought in court, the fact that a man agreed to be named on the child’s birth certificate could be used as evidence that the man is the father. In that case the judge would still have to rule that the man is the father.
In all other cases, signing the birth certificate would not be relevant to establishing paternity.
How to establish paternity in Oklahoma
There are three ways to establish paternity in Oklahoma:
1. By being the “presumed father”
2. By being an “acknowledged father”
3. By being an “adjudicated father.”
How to become a Presumed Father
A man can become the presumed father of a child in one of five ways:
1. He and the mother are married, and the child is born during the marriage
2. He and the mother were married, and the child is born within 300 days after the marriage ends (by either death, divorce, or annulment)
3. He and the mother purported to be married, and the marriage is legally invalid, and the child was born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment
4. He and the mother married after the child was born, and he “voluntarily asserted” his parentage, and
a. His assertion of paternity is in a record with the Oklahoma Department of Human Service (DHS)
b. He agreed to be named, and is named, on the birth certificate, or
c. He promised “in a record” to support the child as his own
5. For the first two years of the child’s life, he lived in the same home as the child, and openly held out the child as his.
How to become an acknowledged father
To become an acknowledged father, a man must sign an acknowledgment of paternity, on a form provided by DHS. This acknowledgment form is not the same as a birth certificate. The form looks like this:
If you’re wondering whether a man is an acknowledged father, and he hasn’t signed that form, then, he’s probably not the acknowledged father.
For more information on acknowledgments of paternity, and paternity in general, read the FAQ section of the DHS website, here.
How to become an adjudicated father
For a man to become an adjudicated father, a paternity proceeding must be filed in court, and a judge must rule that the man is the father. The following persons may file a paternity proceeding:
1. The child
2. The child’s mother
3. A man wants to claim paternity (or wants to deny paternity)
4. DHS, or
5. A representative, legally authorized to act for someone who may bring a paternity action, but who is deceased, incapacitated, or a minor.
Being the father does not mean a man has custody or visitation rights
Even if a man is the legal father of the child, he still may not have custody of the child, or the right to see the child. Okla. Stat. tit. 10 § 7800 says that if a child is born to parents who are not married, the mother has custody until a “court of competent jurisdiction” rules otherwise.
Do you still have questions?
The laws of paternity are very confusing. I have had many clients who are very distraught over paternity issues. Sometime mothers come to me and wonder if the “father” can come and take their children away.