What Rights Do Fathers Have if Not on a Birth Certificate?

Last updated February 10th, 2023

When married couples have a child, the father’s name is included on the birth certificate without needing to establish paternity. In this case, parental obligations and rights are equal for both parents.

However, the situation changes for unmarried couples. Fathers in this position have legal constraints regarding the child. For these, acknowledging paternity at birth is one way to avoid limitations.

In general terms, unwed fathers who recognize the relationship with their child on the birth certificate can be more involved with their offspring and the decisions surrounding them.

Once a court establishes paternity, the father is financially responsible for the child.

In this article, you will find answers to the following questions:

  • Does the father have to sign the birth certificate?
  • How long does a father have to sign a birth certificate?
  • What happens if the father doesn't sign the birth certificate?
  • Does a father have custody and visitation rights if he is not on the birth certificate?

Does the Father Have to Sign the Birth Certificate?

While registering the birth of a child is a legal requirement in the U.S., the biological father’s name does not need to be listed for a Vital Records office to issue a birth certificate.

Fathers must provide their consent for their names to appear in the document. If you are an unwed father, the safest way to proceed is to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP).

The facility where the baby is born can deliver the form and assist with completing the details. Confirming paternity at the hospital is not a legal requirement. The paperwork can also be filled out at a later point by the parents.

How Long Does a Father Have to Sign a Birth Certificate?

Including the father’s name at the time of birth is the easiest option, as hospitals have the necessary forms at hand.

Although this is the ideal process, parents can update the birth record to include the father’s name at any time, even after the birth certificate has been issued.

The process to amend a child’s birth certificate can vary from state to state, but parents will typically need to go to their Vital Records Department and follow this procedure:

  1. Submit a copy of the birth certificate.
  2. Pay a fee.
  3. Request the father sign an AOP.

If a father refuses to acknowledge paternity, you will need to file a petition to establish it in court.

What Happens if the Father Doesn't Sign the Birth Certificate?

Regardless of the reason, it is important to understand how the father’s absence on the birth certificate can impact the child’s interest.

In short, not listing the father on the form results in a limitation ofthe father’s rights and obligations regarding the baby. Additionally, the child will be deprived of certain privileges.

The main constraints for fathers are:

  • Custody and visitation rights. Fathers have no legal rights if paternity has not been acknowledged by signing the birth certificate, although they can be obtained through alternative ways in court.
  • Parental decisions. Influencing essential choices regarding issues like schooling, healthcare or extracurricular activities may become difficult.

Children whose fathers have not signed their birth certificates can be affected in several ways:

  • Child support. Fathers are not obliged to provide financial support for their children if they do not appear on the certificate. This can prove detrimental to the child’s financial well-being.
  • Inheritance and other death benefits. In the event of the father’s death, children might have extreme difficulties in claiming benefits. In many instances, it is impossible to demand them if the father’s name was not added to the birth certificate.
  • Health insurance. Failing to include the father in the form will result in the inability to enroll the child in his health insurance plan.

Does a Father Have Custody and Visitation Rights if He Is Not on the Birth Certificate?

Fathers must establish their paternity first to have legal rights over their children. Signing the birth certificate is the simplest way to acquire them.

As previously described, this involves the acknowledgment of paternity and can be done at the hospital or facility where the baby was born. For this, both parents must agree to list the father’s name on the certificate.

If this has not been done and the relationship between the mother and the father is unhealthy, a court order may be necessary to determine custody and visitation rights.

In situations like this one, the court will look at the circumstances involving both parents and make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child.

There are 2 types of custody rights:

  • Legal custody. It refers to the authority to make key decisions such as educational, religious, or medical ones.
  • Physical custody. Also called residential custody, it defines where the child will live most of the time.

Ignoring what has been settled in court has serious legal consequences, as the parent might be held in contempt of court.

If you are not sure about adding your name to a birth certificate due to particular circumstances, it is best to contact a family attorney and seek legal counsel.