A child's legal parent possesses unique rights and responsibilities. For example, only the legal parent of a child can be required to make or receive payments for a child support order. Being the child's legal parent means one's parentage (paternity) has been legally established.
Unless one is the child's biological mother, having one's name on a child's birth certificate does not necessarily mean they are the child's legal parent. Otherwise, there are a few ways one can become the legal parent of a child:
Both a judge in court and the Department of Family Services have the authority to determine whether or not someone is the legal parent of a child. This is referred to as an adjudication of parentage.
Based on either the evidence of DNA testing or the relevant facts of the situation, a judge or caseworker can determine that no parent-child relationship exists between a child and their legal parent, meaning that person is no longer the child's legal parent.
A Denial of Parentage is a document that can be signed by the spouse or partner of the biological mother within 300 days of their child being born, otherwise known as the presumed parent.
If a signed Denial of Parentage is approved, it prevents the presumed parent from being declared the child's legal parent.
A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) is a form that is signed by someone who believes they are the biological parent of a child. If approved, the signing person becomes the legal parent of the child. The VAP is typically presented at the hospital to the person present with the child's biological mother at the time of childbirth, so long as they are not married to each other.
A VAP can be rescinded within 60 days of being signed. This would prevent the signing person from becoming the legal parent of a child named in the VAP.
A VAP can be challenged if someone was mislead or pressured to sign it, or upon acquiring new knowledge of the relevant facts of the situation within two years of signing the VAP.