U.S. birth certificates are vital documents that can be used to prove both citizenship and identity. You will need a birth certificate to apply for a passport or driver’s license, enroll in school, and even apply for a marriage license. A child’s birth certificate contains important information like their full name, the date, time, and location of birth, and usually the parents’ full names and information.
When married parents have a child, they typically include both of their names on the birth certificate and share rights and responsibilities concerning the child’s care. While many unmarried parents do this as well, some may choose to only put the mother’s name on the birth certificate.
Parents often have questions about the legal consequences of putting the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate, or leaving it off. So, we’re going to answer some of those questions and clear up some misconceptions.
What happens if the father signs the child’s birth certificate?
First of all, if the parents are not married, then the father’s name can only be added after paternity has been established. This can be done through:
- A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) – this is a legal document that you can get from the hospital after the baby’s birth, however it can also be filed at any time in the future. In this case, both of the parents agree on paternity.
- Petition to Establish Paternity – paternity is proven through a state-established legal process, usually genetic testing. In this case, the father has no rights to the child until granted by the court.
Both of these methods to establish paternity can be done right after the baby’s birth, or at any time during the baby’s life. So, if you choose to leave the father’s name off of the child’s birth certificate, it can be added later on, if necessary. While the VAP is, by far, the simplest way to establish paternity, it is not always an option. Sometimes, the father of the child does not wish to acknowledge paternity or cannot be contacted. At other times, paternity may not be clear. In these situations, the parents must turn to the court to help establish paternity through DNA testing and legal proceedings.
By signing a child’s birth certificate, the father claims that the child is legally and biologically his and accepts legal responsibility for the child. While this does mean that he is financially obligated to help support the child, it does not guarantee access to the child or shared custody.
If the child’s parents are not together and the father wants to share custody or get regular visitation, he must get a court order defining his rights concerning the child. A VAP only permits the father to put his name on the birth certificate, however, putting the father’s name on the birth certificate does give him the right to petition the courts for custody or visitation.
What if the father does not sign the child’s birth certificate?
There are many valid reasons why a child’s birth certificate may not include the father’s name. However, it is important to be aware of the legal consequences of omitting the father’s name from the birth certificate.
Remember that just putting the father’s name on the birth certificate does guarantee custody or involvement in the child’s life, however, it does confirm legal and financial responsibility for the child.
If the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, it may affect the child’s ability to claim or receive:
- Child support
- Life insurance benefits or an inheritance
- Insurance coverage
- Social Security benefits
- Military benefits
On the other hand, minors often need signatures or permission from all parents listed on their birth certificate in order to do things like apply for a passport or enroll in school. This may be a problem if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, but the mother and father do not stay in contact.
If you aren’t sure what to do at the time the child is born, just remember that the father can claim paternal rights at any point in the child’s life. However, if the father dies, the birth records can not be changed. If you are considering changing your child’s birth certificate to add the father’s name, you may want to consult an attorney to determine the legal consequences.
You can also check out: What information is on a birth certificate?