How to Establish Paternity

How to Establish Paternity

Below is an overview of general issues involved when establishing paternity of a child when the parents are unmarried.

Paternity merely means “the state of being a father; fatherhood.” Should an unmarried couple have a child, it’s important that the father’s paternity gets established promptly following the child being born. This safeguards the mother, the baby, and particularly the father, by greatly decreasing the potential that a judge is going to refuse the father custody or visitation rights of his child, or other rights in which fathers are entitled to legally. It also helps guarantee that the child is going to be qualified to receive benefits from their father, comprising of health, disability survivors’, and life insurance benefits.

Don’t forget that parents are legally responsible for their children and their reinforcement, regardless of if the parents are married or not. And even if the father didn’t want the child, or broke it off with his partner prior to the baby being born, he stay obligated for the child’s support. Having a recognition of paternity is vital in receiving this financial support.

Naming the Baby and Obtaining a Birth Certificate

In a lot of states, you can give your baby any; first, middle, and last name you wish. If you’re married or unmarried, there is no reason to give the baby the last name of either of their parents if you don’t want to, and the child doesn’t have to take their father’s last name to be thought of as “legitimate.”

The process of naming a baby is straightforward. A delegate of the local health department or likewise agency, or a hospital caseworker, meets with the new mother in the hospital immediately following the birth and inquires her about her child’s name and some questions concerning the mother’s health and the father’s name and profession. The mother doesn’t have to name the child during this time, though she is going to most likely be pressed to do so. The information the mother gives is put on a form she then signs. The state then issues a birth certificate, which typically doesn’t disclose whether their parents are married.

When the baby isn’t born at a medical facility, the mother or the physician, midwife, or other individual assisting in the delivery is required to notify health-care personnel of the birth. To reiterate, there’s no legal requirement that the baby be named during this time, but it’s customary to do so.

In any case, when the mother didn’t name the baby or didn’t disclose the father’s identity, it is possible to update the birth certificate at a later date to include those details. The state Department of Health or Bureau of Vital Statistics in each state is going to have procedures for putting the father’s name on the baby’s birth certificate or altering the birth certificate to indicate the child’s name. When you are going to be placing the father’s name on the birth certificate, a lot of states are going to require the un-married father to sign a voluntary affidavit acknowledging paternity form.

Naming the Father: Establishing Paternity

The easiest method of establishing the father’s paternity is by placing his name on the baby’s birth certificate. Through US Department of Health and Human Services statutes, each state must offer unwed parents a chance to establish paternity by signing an acknowledgment of paternity form voluntarily, either at the medical facility or at a later date. In a lot of states, as a result of political pressure to decrease the number of mothers on welfare by guaranteeing that there is another person with an obligation of supporting the child, medical facility personnel are going to make every attempt at getting the father to sign the form.

In many states, the only way an un-married father’s name can be put on a child’s birth certificate is when they sign a voluntary affidavit acknowledging paternity form.

When the father is not present at the medical facility following the birth, the mother is not going to be able to list him as the father on the birth certificate without him there—the father and mother are going to instead have to sign the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity at a later time and have the father’s name also placed on the child’s birth certificate later. A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity signed by each of the parents has the likewise legal impact as a court order, so after it is signed and submitted to the relevant agency, the father’s paternal rights are decisively established. When you reside in a state that necessitates a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity prior to placing an un-married father’s name on a baby’s birth certificate, and you both break up prior to the baby being born, you might have to file a lawsuit to establish paternity when your ex-partner will not sign the voluntary acknowledgment.

Preparing a Paternity Statement

When both of you are present for the birth, and it’s obvious that your partner is the child’s father, it’s likely that you are going to be unable to leave the medical facility without putting the father’s name on the birth certificate or signing an affidavit acknowledging paternity form. Nevertheless, if by any chance you don’t place the father’s name on the birth certificate or by signing a voluntary affidavit acknowledging paternity form at the medical facility, then it is vital that you create and then signing either or an informal “paternity statement”.

Official State Paternity Statements

As mentioned above, each state has official forms in which a father is able to voluntarily acknowledge his paternity of their child. In many states, there’s a time restriction for signing those forms, but in others there’s no time restriction, and in a lot of states, his signature on the form serves as a proxy to a court order, formally making an establishment of his fatherly relationship with his child. A DIY form is not going to achieve the same thing, so prior to you creating one, verify if you are still able to sign a voluntary affidavit acknowledging paternity form with the state. For information on your state’s paternity guidelines and forms, get a hold of your state department of health; find yours at NCHS.

Informal Paternity Statements

Presuming you have not signed a paternity statement at the medical facility, or used your state’s forms, you can create a paternity statement yourself easy enough. A Sample Acknowledgment of Parenthood, is to be signed by each of the parents, is included here. Utilize this as an example when creating your own. Simply enter the father, the mother, and the child’s name, date of birth, and location of birth in the appropriate areas. Make 2 copies of the statement and have your signatures notarized on each of the copies. Having them notarized isn’t required, but it’s a good idea. Should the father pass away, the mother might have to present the paternity statement to several public agencies—and possibly life insurance companies and other private entities. Notarization confirms that the father’s signature was not forged following the father’s passing.

The mother and father need to each retain a copy of their notarized statement. Many states have established methods of filing paternity statements with state agencies. For information on accomplishing this, get a hold of your state’s Department of Health or Bureau of Vital Statistics. To locate your state department of health visit NCHS.

Legal Disputes Over Paternity

Legal challenges concerning paternity commonly regard to a father’s responsibility for paying child support. A father refusing to sign a paternity statement is not going to get him free of paying child support. When a father does not sign a paternity statement voluntarily, the state is going to go to court to prove that he is indeed the father and compile child support.

Other paternity-associated legal disputes regard the parental rights of the father. When the father has signed a paternity statement or a declaration of paternity sometime following the child being born, his parental rights are generally still established provided that there is no dispute concerning custody or adoption arises in the meantime. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that when a father delays until a custody dispute comes up, it might be overdue to establish complete parental rights—unless the father has had a continual relationship with the child. (Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978).) For instance, the Court rejected a father’s right to stop a child’s adoption—and, due to this action, cut off his parental rights—in a case in which he had no genuine relationship with his child and didn’t attempt to legitimatize them until the adoption process started. (Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248 (1983).) In many states, only a father that has established paternity by coming forward sooner than later and demonstrating a full devotion to his parental responsibilities is required to be notified of adoption procedures. (In re Kelsey S., 823 P.2d 1216 (Cal. 1992).) And when he does learn of them, he might have no legal standing of objecting.

In a lot of other states, there is a tendency towards giving un-married fathers more rights, particularly in which the father has quickly and consistently tried to form a paternal relationship with a young child but was hindered from because of the mother. For instance, in which the mother declined to tell the father about the birth of their child, when the father later finds out about the birth and quickly makes a sincere effort to assume responsibility for their child, the courts are typically going to protect his rights, as in the Baby Jessica case. (In re Clausen, 502 N.W. 2d 649 (Mich. 1993).)

Do Not Acknowledge Paternity if You Are Not the Father

Even though signing to paternity statement is a wise idea when you are the father of the child, if you aren’t the father, or if you aren’t sure, don’t sign it. When signing a paternity statement, you are going to be responsible for child support and even for compensating the state for public assistance payments made to the child’s mother, unless you can demonstrate that you are aren’t in fact the child’s father.

Do Not Lie About the Child’s Father

In states in which the mother can state the name of the father even when he is not present, some mothers are tempted to write down a name different than the actual father’s name on the birth information document. This is most common in which the mother is no longer seeing the biological father and is involved with someone else that she would like to have bring up the child or that is financially better suited to do so. Naming a man as the baby’s father if that man is not the actual the father is a horrible idea.

An un-married couple’s present relationship may not last forever and complex legal questions concerning paternity and support can arise from naming the wrong individual as the child’s father. In a widely known case (In re Clausen, 502 N.W.2d 649 (Mich. 1993)), the mother of Baby Jessica fibbed on her baby’s birth certificate, declaring that her new boyfriend was the father, and did not disclose her ex that she had given birth to their child. As the mother and the new boyfriend put the baby up for adoption, the ex-boyfriend discovered it and wished to step in and take back Baby Jessica. A drawn-out legal battle stemmed between the new adoptive parents and the child’s biological parents, with the baby caught in the middle (the baby was ultimately returned to her biological parents). To avoid such possible problems, it is always best to correctly state who the baby’s biological father is.


  1. Nolo. (2020, November 6). How to establish paternity. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from

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