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Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

The Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form is a way to name the legal father of a child(ren), without having to go to court, if the parents are not married. Ordinarily, when the parents of a child are not married, Family Court issues an order naming the legal parent of the child. When determining a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, each parent must make his or her own decision. If both parents agree to sign the VAP form, paternity is established very easily. 

If either or both of the parents are under the age of 18 years old (minors), Delaware law prohibits minors from executing a VAP for the purpose of paternity establishment.  Minor parents, who wish to establish paternity for their child(ren), will need to pursue paternity establishment with the Delaware Family Court.  The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) and the Delaware Family Court have established a process, for minor parents, so that paternity can be established in lieu of signing a VAP form.  Minor parents, who wish to establish paternity for their child(ren), may wish to utilize the resources available at Delaware Family Court and DCSS.

Acknowledging paternity is important for the child(ren) because the child(ren) may qualify for certain types of benefits as a legal dependent of the parent. Some of these benefits may include:  social security, veteran's benefits, disability, health care coverage and inheritance, in addition to the positive psychological benefits.

When a VAP is properly signed, it conclusively establishes the man's paternity of the child, unless either parent rescinds the VAP within 60 days of filing with the Office of Vital Statistics (OVS).

VAPs can only be signed after the child(ren) is born.  The VAP can be signed at the hospital or anytime until the child turns 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school. There is no fee for signing the VAP form and it will allow the other parent's name to be placed on the birth certificate.

If the mother was married during the 300 days before the birth of the child, OR if the mother was not married, but during the first two years from the birth of the child, another man continuously lived with the child and acknowledged the child as his own, then that man is considered to be the presumed father. In order for the mother and biological father to complete the VAP , the mother and the presumed father must complete a form called the Denial of Paternity (DOP). Both the Denial of Paternity (DOP) and the VAP must be filed with the Office of Vital Statistics (OVS). Neither document is valid until both have been filed.