Affidavit Definition

What is an Affidavit and How is it Used in Family Law?

Father holding his newborn baby
Signing a paternity affidavit acknowledges the biological connection between a father and child. Photo © Sue Barr/Getty Images

Whether you're in the process of acknowledging paternity, filing for child support, or fighting for child custody, you may be asked to sign a legal affidavit. Learn what an affidavit is, how it is typically used in this context, and what procedures to follow before you sign an affidavit. Here's what you need to know about this legal term:

Affidavit Definition

An affidavit is a written statement that is then signed under oath. In fact, it is derived from the Latin word "affidare," which means "to pledge" or "declared upon oath." Typically, an affidavit must be notarized, which means that it must be signed in front of a notary official who also verifies the identification of the individual signing the statement. This protects you from having someone else pretend to be you and signing the document on your behalf.

Uses of the Word Affidavit

You've probably heard the word affidavit used in other contexts. This is because the legal term affidavit is used in reference to any document that must be signed under oath. In family law, the following types of affidavits may be used:

  • Paternity affidavit, which serves as an acknowledgment of paternity
  • Financial affidavit, which is used to verify each parents' financial statements in order to determine child support
  • Character affidavit, which may be completed by friends, family members, and/or colleagues to verify the character of an individual

Using the Word Affidavit Correctly

The following examples demonstrate how the word affidavit can be used:

  • "If the biological father cannot be present at birth, he can sign an affidavit verifying that he is the father."
  • "When filing for child support, parents may be asked to complete a financial affidavit."
  • "I've asked two friends to complete character affidavits to demonstrate and prove that I'm a person of strong integrity"

Frequently Asked Questions

It's not enough to understand what the word affidavit means and how it is used. As a single parent heading to court or signing papers to acknowledge paternity, you may also want to know:

  1. Do I need a special form, or can I write on any paper and call it an affidavit? In cases related to family law, you typically need to complete a specific affidavit form and have it notarized. For example, when an unmarried woman gives birth at a hospital, the birth father (if present) will be given a paternity affidavit form on-site to fill out and sign. Similarly, when you file for child support, the state will give you a series of financial affidavit forms to complete.
  2. Where can I have an affidavit notarized? In the U.S., many banks provide notary services free of charge. Be sure to wait and sign the document in front of the person who is notarizing your affidavit. This is the only way they can verify that the signature is, indeed, yours.
  3. Do affidavit forms always need to be notarized? It is generally best to have an affidavit formally notarized, although the requirements of specific jurisdictions may vary. In any case, be sure to follow the instructions on any affidavit form you complete.
  4. Why must I fill out a financial affidavit in order for the state to process my child support request? A financial affidavit, also referred to as an "income and expense affidavit," is required to verify your financial standing and compare it to, or evaluate it in conjunction with, your ex's financial summary. This is a standard part of determining the amount of child support you will either owe or receive.