A parental affidavit is a legal document that a parent of a minor child can use to make a sworn statement about some aspect of parental rights. The most common parental affidavits relate to paternity and relinquishment of parental rights. Parental affidavits can be used for a number of different things, however, from safety and consent releases for children’s activities to sworn statement of address and residency for educational opportunities.
Affidavits are widely used in law, often in place of court testimony as a way for a person to swear under the penalty of perjury that certain facts or written statements are accurate. All affidavits are legal documents that carry with them the binding weight of the law. The only thing that makes a parental affidavit distinct is that it is related specifically to facts or assertions about parental rights and obligations.
Paternity affidavits, for instance, are legal documents through which a father can acknowledge a child as his own. Most of the time, a man who is married to a woman who gives birth is automatically presumed to be that child’s father. No affidavit is required in this scenario. When parents are not married, the father must usually acknowledge his paternity. A paternity affidavit is often the preferred vehicle.
A father who chooses to acknowledge a child can voluntarily sign a paternity affidavit at the time of the child’s birth. He may also be compelled to sign if he is found by a court of law to be the child’s biological parent. The parental affidavit entitles the mother to receive certain child support and other benefits from the named father. It also entitles the child to certain dependent benefits, including inheritance rights and insurance coverage in some circumstances.
Parental affidavits are also routinely used in parental rights relinquishment scenarios, usually involving adoptions. Though much depends on the terms of the adoption, birth parents are often required to relinquish any and all rights that they may have in raising or visiting their children. Signing a parental affidavit acknowledging that the child was born, but swearing to transfer parental rights to another, is a legally binding way to permanently sever the parent-child relationship.
Not all parental affidavits are so final, however. There are many times over the course of a child’s life when the parent, as a competent adult, may need to make disclaimers or statements for the benefit of the child. Sometimes, extracurricular activities like sports teams or sleep-away camps require parents to sign a parental affidavit swearing to hold the sponsoring organization harmless in case of injury. Affidavits swearing that a child lives permanently or semi-permanently within the confines of a certain school district might also be required for school enrollment or for the child to receive some community-sponsored benefit.
Different jurisdictions have different rules with respect to how a parental affidavit must be executed, what its form must be, and the specific information that it must contain. Most of the time, lawyers familiar with the local rules are contracted to draft parental affidavits. Incorrectly worded or improperly executed affidavits may not be enforceable in court. Courts take the sworn statements in affidavits very seriously. As such, a parental affidavit that is falsified or that contains untrue statements can submit signatories to perjury charges, fines, and sometimes even jail time.