A birth certificate is a vital legal document that you will need throughout your lifetime. Not only does it help identify you in important situations, but it also names the parents who are legally responsible for a child until adulthood. While many people never need to change these documents, there are many reasons to petition to remove a father’s name from the birth certificate.
It's important to note that the only way to remove a biological father from a birth certificate is through adoption. This involves the termination or relinquishment of the father's parental rights and another person taking over. A mother cannot remove a biological father from the birth certificate, for example, simply for being an absentee father.
If a DNA Test Establishes Non-Paternity
One of the most common reasons you may want to remove the father’s name from a birth certificate is that the named father turns out not to be biologically related to the child. For example, a couple could have presumed paternity only to later discover someone else is the biological father. Furthermore, a woman could have been unsure of her child’s paternity and guessed incorrectly.
In either case, either the named father, the true biological father or the mother may wish to remove the father’s name on the birth certificate. The process for doing this depends entirely on the state in which the birth certificate was filed and the location of the involved parties. In general, anyone trying to change the father’s name on a birth certificate must:
- Get the results of a legal paternity test that show non-paternity.
- Petition the court to remove the father’s name.
- Prove that doing so is in the best interests of the child.
The specifics of these steps vary by state. If the court agrees, the mother may remove the father’s name. She may need to leave it blank or take additional steps to add the biological father to the certificate. When making these changes, the mother also can opt to change the last name on the child’s birth certificate.
Considering the Child’s Best Interest
In some cases, the court may not approve a petition to remove a father’s name from a birth certificate, even if the named father is not the biological father. Depending on state laws, doing so may not be in the best interests of the child, which often takes priority in these cases.
For example, if the mother and father on the birth certificate were married at the time of the birth, in some states, the father may not be able to remove his name. Courts can consider this legal paternity, despite the results of any DNA test. Furthermore, when the named father provides emotional and financial support, removing his name may not benefit the child.
Some states provide a window in which parents can make changes to the birth certificate, including the time to change the last name on a child’s birth certificate. It’s important for anyone who believes he fathered a child and whose name is not on the birth certificate to hire an attorney as soon as possible.
Changing the Legal Father After Stepparent Adoption
Sometimes, a biological father is named on the birth certificate but is completely absent from the child’s life. The father could have his rights terminated or relinquish his parental rights. In these cases, a stepparent may adopt the child and become the child’s legal parent.
After a stepparent adoption, a child can get a new birth certificate with the new parent’s name on it. At this time, the parents also can change the name on the child’s birth certificate.
Amending a Birth Certificate After Adoption
In some cases, both parents are either unwilling or unable to care for a child. They may relinquish their rights privately or have their rights taken after a case with Child Protective Services. When this happens, another family may adopt the child.
After an adoption, the adoptive family can choose to change the child’s birth certificate. Doing so puts the adoptive family on the certificate and removes both birth parents’ names. Adoptive parents also may have the original birth records sealed.
Read More: Laws on Names on Birth Certificate
- Legal Match: Removing a Father's Name from a Birth Certificate in California
- Nolo: Can I change my child's name if the wrong man is named on her birth certificate?
- Dads Divorce: How do I get my name off a birth certificate?
- DNA Testing: How to Change the Father on Your Child’s Birth Certificate
- Child Welfare: Stepparent Adoption Guide
- Justia: Amending a Birth Certificate After Adoption