Today, November 1, 2022, a new law goes into effect, HB 3193, that gives unmarried mothers and fathers equal rights and obligations to their child born out of wedlock when an acknowledgement of paternity has been signed.
Hospitals are often the institutions responsible for providing and explaining the acknowledgement of paternity form to parents during the preparation of the child’s birth certificate. Hospital staff involved in this process need to be aware of this significant change in the law, as the acknowledgement of paternity now has greater importance.
Prior to this change, the mother of a child born out of wedlock had custody of the child regardless of whether an acknowledgement of paternity had been signed. This typically meant that the mother was the sole custodian with discretion regarding the father’s visitation and decision-making, unless the father filed a paternity action in state court resulting in a decree of paternity.
With this change, the parents of a child born out of wedlock will be given the same rights and responsibilities of parents married at the time of the child’s birth. This means they will be equal custodians with equal roles in decision-making, including medical decision making.
When a child is born at an institution (i.e. a hospital), the person in charge of the institution, or a designated representative, must prepare the child’s birth certificate. The Oklahoma Legislature has said that part of the hospital’s role in preparing the birth certificate when the child is born out of wedlock is providing an acknowledgement of paternity on a form provided by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. This form can be found on the Department’s website.
Along with providing the acknowledgement of paternity form, the hospital’s staff must explain the implications of signing the form, along with the associated parental rights and responsibilities. These associated parental rights and responsibilities are even more significant as a result of HB 3193 and new parents should be advised of such.
If new parents choose to sign an acknowledgement of paternity, the hospital is responsible for providing the original form to the State Department of Health. Copies of the form must also be provided to the Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement Division, the child’s mother, and the child’s father.
With the enactment of HB 3193, unwed parents will now be able to have equal rights and obligations to their child as if they were married at the time of the birth, provided an acknowledgment of paternity is signed. This varies significantly from the prior law that the mother of a child born out of wedlock has custody until determined otherwise by a court. This clearly changes the roles of parents who have a child out of wedlock and may limit the need for a formal paternity action in some cases. HB 3193 also impacts hospitals in Oklahoma tasked with providing and explaining the significance of this form during the birth certificate process.