There are many reasons that a mother may choose not to list their child’s biological father on the birth certificate. Whether the biological father’s identity is not known, he does not wish to be involved in the child’s life, or the mother wished to keep his identity a secret for some other reason it is important to know what this means for the health and well-being of their child. Please note that we are not lawyers and all legal information presented in this article are intended to be used only for general information. For specific information about the laws and regulations in your state please seek out information from a reliable, local legal representative.
The birth certificate is a record of birth.
In most states, the birth certificate is the record of the child’s birth only. The legal ramifications of having no biological father listed on it varies but it is not a legally binding document. Even if there is no father listed on the record, there are circumstances wherein the law will still consider someone to be the legal father of the child by default. For instance, in most states if the mother is married when the child is born then her husband is presumed to be the biological father of the child until proven otherwise. This also applies if an unmarried couple was living together immediately after the child’s birth and the man was openly supporting the child and putting out that the child is biologically his without contradiction by the mother.
Not listing the father does not deny him parental rights.
It is a common myth that not listing the biological father of your child on the birth certificate denies him all parental rights. This is simply not true. The father can file an affidavit with the courts to establish his parental rights. If it is reasonable to assume that he is the biological father or a DNA test confirms paternity, he will attain full paternal rights to the child. This can happen any time before their 18th birthday. If preceding the birth you were married to the father, engaged, living with him, if he has agreed to pay child support, or if after the birth he was living with the child and openly claiming them as their biological child then the courts say that he is “reasonably assumed to be the father”.
It is difficult to sue for child support.
It is possible to apply for child support if there is no father listed on the birth certificate but the process is much more difficult. Before child support can be awarded, paternity will have to be established. This will usually require a DNA paternity test be completed before child support hearings can begin. Establishing paternity does give the father the rights to seek partial or full custody of the child in a separate court proceeding.
It is not a given that you have sole legal custody of your child.
While the laws vary from state to state, many states have the distinction between initial custody and sole custody. Even if there is no father listed on the birth certificate the majority of states only consider the mother to have initial custody. This means that if a father does enter the picture and establish paternity that he has the right to equal share in custody unless otherwise determined by the court. You can apply for sole legal custody of your child if no father is listed on the birth certificate but some states do require that a good faith effort to locate the biological father be conducted before sole custody can be awarded.
This does not mean that a child can be put up for adoption.
Just because no biological father is reported on the birth certificate does not mean that the mother can put their child up for adoption. This law varies wildly from state to state. In many states the biological father must voluntarily surrender his parental rights or have them removed by the state before an adoption can take place. Not listing a birth father does not negate this law.