of babies in the US are born to mothers who are not married.
If the father is not present at the birth of the child, then his name will likely not appear on the birth certificate. In the case that both parents are present at the birth, but the parents are not married, it is possible to have the father listed on the birth certificate. Most hospitals require an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form to be signed by both the mother and father before adding the father to the birth certificate in that case.
Just because the father is not listed on the birth certificate, does not mean that he cannot formally request custody or visitation. However, he will need to go through the process of establishing paternity.
Establishing paternity is critical for a father to be recognized as a legal parent. If paternity is not established, the father has no rights or responsibilities towards the care and upbringing of the child. This means the father will have no say if the mother chooses to put their child up for adoption or take the child out of the country. The father in this case will not be required to pay any child support.
To assert any parental rights, the father must establish paternity. Child Welfare Information Gateway
, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers these possible ways to establish paternity:
- The father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity or the possibility of paternity of a child born outside of marriage. This fact can be recorded in in a paternity registry. This ensures the father receives notice of court proceedings regarding the child, petitions for adoption, and actions to terminate parental rights. The father also may seek visitation rights and will likely be required to pay child support.
- The father can file an acknowledgment of paternity with a court. The child, the child’s mother, or other interested parties may petition the court to establish a man’s paternity. The court may order bloodwork or other genetic testing as a means of determining paternity.
There are obviously a lot of different scenarios when it comes to determining paternity. Many important Q&A’s are discussed in the Child Support Handbook
chapter published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement.
All states offer parents the opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge a child’s paternity until the child reaches the age of 18.
Changing the birth certificate
It also is possible to change the birth certificate after it is issued to make sure the father’s name is added. While the process differs by state, you will most likely have to send back the original birth certificate, include a notarized affidavit acknowledging paternity, and pay a fee.