There are severe legal implications regarding naming the father of a child, especially where the parents are single and unmarried and there is need to establish Paternity. This article is published to enlighten you on some of the legal repercussion of things we take for granted such as Paternity Statement, Acknowledgment and the process of Child naming.
Paternity or Fatherhood refers to “the position of being a father.” It is crucial that before or after the birth of a child, the paternity of the child ought to be established or ascertain as early as possible especially where the child is born to single or unmarried couple to avoid complications and unnecessary claims and litigation. The relationship between an unmarried couple can be very frosty after a minor disagreement and most times the battle for supremacy and vendetta is usually displayed over the care and custody of the child including ascertaining Paternity if not done early enough.
The Law of Paternity in most States seem t operate to protect the mother, the baby, and especially the father, by significantly reducing the probability of a court to deny the organic father of child care, custody or visitation or any other right legally recognized by law and accruing to the father. The law also protects the child and ensures that he/she is eligible to enjoy and receive benefits such as health, survivors’, disability, and life insurance etc. from the father.
Whether or not a couple is married, a child born to them is legally entitled to parental support. If the father rejects or denies a child, or part ways from his partner prior to the birth of the child, the father remains liable to pay child support once Paternity is established according to law. You may read my previous article on “Paternity Lawsuit: Legal Perspectives and Child Support” to know the legal methods and presumptions of law in determining Paternity. You must note that acknowledgment or establishing of Paternity is a fundamental condition to receiving financial support.
Naming A New Born Baby, Obtaining a Birth Certificate And Amendment Of Birth Certificate
The process for Naming a newborn baby is easy but germane. It requires a local health department representative or a hospital otherwise social worker to meet with the mother of the infant baby in the place of delivery which is usually a hospital instantaneously after the birth and demand for the name of the child. They may also ask questions pertaining to the health of the mother. They will also ask questions about the name and occupation of the father of the child.
The relevant information of the child revealed by the mother will be entered on a form which she will sign in fresh ink. Based on the preceding, the State will issue a birth certificate in favor of the child. Note that the Birth Certificate will reflect the name of father and mother but will not reveal their marital status.
Where the baby is not born in a medical facility, the mother, doctor, midwife, or any other person who aided in the delivery of the child is duty bound by law to notify health officials of the birth the newborn baby. You must also note that the parents of a child may decide to reveal that a new baby is born but can decide not to name the child at this point as there is no legal provision that a new baby must be named at this stage even though most people do that. The stipulation of the law is to the extent that parents, hospital, doctors, midwife or any persons who assisted in the delivery of a newborn baby must notify health officials.
There is also a provision to update the birth certificate of a child on a later date where the mother decides not to name the baby or disclose the identity of the father to include the additional information. The process or option of adding a child’s father’s name to a birth certificate also known as an amendment of birth certificate is contained in the State Department of Health or Bureau of Vital Statistics of each State to reflect the child’s name. Where the parents of the child are unmarried, some States will demand that the father signs an acknowledgment of Paternity before his name can be added as the father of the child on the birth certificate.
You must also note the following:
- You may give your child any first name, middle name, and last name of your choice.
- It is not mandatory that your child bears the last name of any of the parent whether married or not as a surname.
- It is also not mandatory that your child must bear the father’s last name as a surname to be considered “legitimate.”
These guiding rules are applicable in most States. This is antithetical to the norm in most African and Asian cultures where a child must bear the name of the father as his surname to be considered a legitimate child.
Naming the Father: How to Ascertain Paternity
The most brilliant method of ascertaining the Paternity of a child’s father is by stating same on the birth certificate of the baby. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations demands that all States must allow unwed or alleged father the opportunity to establish Paternity by willingly signing an acknowledgment of Paternity.
The regulation provides that the opportunity for voluntary acknowledgment can be done either at the hospital or on a later date and time. This opportunity is given to unwed parents in most States due to the political pressure to reduce the population of mothers who are on government welfare to make room for the actual father to take responsibility for the support of the child. The government has placed the task on hospital staffs to make frantic effort to get the father of a child to sign the acknowledgment of paternity.
The signing of an intentional or voluntary declaration of Paternity is the only way an unmarried father’s name can be entered in a child’s birth certificate. The mother of a child will not be able to list a father on the birth certificate in his absence where the father is not present at the hospital during the birth of a child even if the man is the actual organic father. The only option left for the father and mother is to sign the voluntary declaration of Paternity on a later date and time when the father will be present to have his name entered on the birth certificate.
A voluntary or intentional declaration of paternity duly signed and executed by both Parents of a child and submitted to the appropriate agency bears same legal effect as an order of court because consequent upon the signature; it firmly establishes the father’s paternal rights over the child.
Some unmarried partners who unfortunately separate before the baby is born in States that requires both parents to sign as a matter of compulsion the voluntary declaration of paternity before entering the name of an unmarried father on a child’s birth certificate have the legal option instituting a legal action in court to establish paternity of the child where the ex-partner refuses to sign the voluntary declaration.
Preparation Of A Paternity Statement
The mother of a child may not be able to leave the hospital without naming the father of a child on the birth certificate or signing a voluntary declaration of paternity where both parents of the child are present at birth. Nevertheless, a relaxed or informal Paternity Statement may be prepared and signed in lieu of voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or naming the father of a child on the birth certificate at the hospital at the time of birth where it becomes impracticable to do so.
Note that different States have diverse guiding principles, limitation of time and official forms upon which a man can willingly acknowledge his paternity of a child. In some jurisdiction, the signature of a father on the prescribed forms is equivalent to a court order for all intent and purposes as it pertains to ascertaining his parental or consanguinity connection with the child. It is important you make inquiries from a legal professional on the relevant forms and guiding principles on the applicability of signing a voluntary declaration of paternity with the state where they intend to make the declaration. Visit the website of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) for the state department of further; health clarifications on your state paternity guiding rules and forms state department of health.
Unofficial Paternity Statements
The father of a child may also sign a self-prepared paternity statement. If he did not sign a paternity statement in the hospital at the time of birth of the child or used his state’s voluntary declaration of paternity. Click this link for Sample Acknowledgment of Parenthood; this precedence will serve as a guide while preparing your own. You must fill in the father’s name, mother’s name, child’s name, date of birth, and place of birth in the suitable columns. Upon completion of the form, both parents shall sign against their respective names in fresh ink. It is advisable that you prepare two counter-part copies of the statement and have your signatures notarized on both counterparts.
Note that Notarization is not a requirement of the law but obtainable in first-rate practices.
Where the father of a child is deceased, the mother may have to provide the paternity statement executed by both parents to all public agencies including life insurers and any other private or public organizations as the accession my warrant. Notarization serves as evidence that the signature of the father of the child was not forged after his demise. Where the notarized paternity statement was executed in counterparts, each parent will keep a copy of for themselves. In some States, the law requires for the filing of paternity statements with a State Agency.
Prevalent Lawsuits over Paternity bothers mainly on the responsibility of a father to pay child support. Refusal to sign a Paternity Statement may not absolve a father from paying child support because the state on behalf of the child and mother will approach a court to establish Paternity and thereafter compel him to pay child support.
There are other issues ancillary to the establishing Paternity in a Paternity Lawsuit which may concern the parental rights of the father in respect of visitation and custody as the case may be. Where the father of a child signs an acknowledgment of paternity or a paternity statement after the birth of the child, it is normal that his parental rights are established provided that there is no dispute on the custody or adoption of the child.
Nevertheless, it was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of QUILLOIN V. WALCOTT, 434 U.S. 246 (1978) that if the father of child allows the custody of that child to be disputed before taking steps to establish Paternity, he will be estopped from establishing full parental rights except there is evidence of ongoing relationship between the father and the child.
Note that from the principles laid down in the case cited above, a Court will deny a father who objects to the legal adoption of his child where there is no evidence of a real relationship with his child, and the legal implications are to the extent that the father’s Parental rights have been cut off. The basis of this principle is that hinged upon the premise that every father must take steps as fast as he can to make his relationship with his child legitimate and establish a real connection of care to be entitled to his parental rights, this is to protect the children from vulnerability and a father should not be allowed to block the adoption proceedings of his child when he never really care about the child. See also the case of LEHR V. ROBERTSON, 463 U.S. 248 (1983).
Reasonably in some jurisdictions or States, before the father can be put on notice for adoption proceedings, he must have promptly established paternity and demonstrate a total commitment and dedication to his parental responsibilities. See also the case of IN RE KELSEY S., 823 P.2D 1216 (CAL. 1992).
Other jurisdictions are a bit flexible by giving unmarried fathers avenues to enjoy parental rights even where the is no prompt acknowledgment, signed Paternity Statement or real relationship with the child, particularly if the father has promptly and consistently made moves by attempting to form a paternal relationship with his child but was rebuffed or hindered by the actions or reactions of the mother. See the case of IN RE CLAUSEN, 502 N.W. 2D 649 (MICH. 1993). Where a mother fails or refuses to inform a father of the birth of their child, upon a later discovery by the father and promptly makes an effort in good faith to commence responsibility for the child’s welfare, usually, the court will protect the rights of the father.
Liability Of Acknowledging Paternity Where You Are Not The Father
Acknowledging Paternity or signing a Paternity Statement is said to be the most excellent thing to do naturally and legally if you are the organic father of a child. Conversely, if you are not the father of a child or you are not sure of Paternity, it is advisable you don’t sign because from the day you sign a paternity statement, you will be liable for child support and all forms of reimbursement the state for welfare payments made to the mother of the child, until you can prove otherwise that you are not the father of the child.
These liabilities accrue from the presumptions of law, and until a court of competent jurisdictions decides otherwise, obligations are sacrosanct.
Misrepresentations About Paternity Of A Child
Some woman misrepresents facts by writing down the name of a person other than the name of the actual father of a child on the birth information form. This is prevalent in situations where the mother is no longer in a relationship with the organic father and has hooked up with another man whom who may be more socially or financially stable, and she would desire to have him raise the child. Most unmarried couples have limited time to stay together save for the ones who eventually get married, and complication leading to legal disputes of Paternity and child support may emanate when the wrong person is listed as the father of a child. See the famous case of IN RE CLAUSEN, 502 N.W.2D 649 (MICH. 1993).
It is advisable to avoid misrepresenting facts pertaining to the name of the father of a child to avoid the legal consequence it bears. This may also not go down well with the child when he/she grows up.