How to Get a Father's Name Added to a Child's Birth Certificate

By Teo Spengler - Updated June 17, 2017
Father carrying sleeping son

Add a father's name to a child's birth certificate by establishing paternity. Either use an Affidavit of Paternity if permitted in your state, or ask a court to order paternity testing.

Adding a Name to a Birth Certificate

It's no surprise that, when you talk about adding a parent's name to a birth certificate, it is almost always the father's name. Birth certificates are often produced from the maternity hospital, so the mother's name is available to staff collecting information.

When might a birth certificate be issued without the father's name? The most obvious circumstance is when the parents are not married and had a brief relationship some nine months before. The man who fathered the child might not know about the pregnancy, or he might know but not want the financial responsibilities that come with paternity.

In these cases, the mother might seek to add his name to the birth certificate for child support purposes. If mother and child receive state aid, the agency providing the aid often has authority to bring a paternity action in the mother's name.

It's also possible that the man who fathered the child wants his name on the birth certificate but doesn't know how to proceed. State laws differ dramatically in how unmarried parents are treated in paternity situations.

Options to Establish Paternity Voluntarily

The easiest way for an unmarried couple to establish paternity is voluntarily. In some states, a man can establish paternity by signing a voluntary sworn declaration that the child is his. He should also file the statement of paternity with the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

In other states, like California, a child's unmarried parents can agree to sign a "Voluntary Declaration of Paternity." Attending medical providers are legally obligated to give an unmarried mother information on the voluntary declaration of paternity. In the form, both parents acknowledge that the father is the child's biological father. His name is added to the child's birth certificate.

Paternity Actions

If the mother and the putative father are not in agreement, the only way to add the father's name to the birth certificate is for one of the parties to file a paternity action. The mother may file such an action if the putative father – i.e., the alleged father – denies he is the father. The putative father can file an action if the mother denies he is the father.

The court can order paternity testing. Usually, if no other man is listed on the birth certificate and the woman is unmarried, no "best interests of the child" test is required. If the testing establishes that the man is in fact the biological father, the court can order his name added to the birth certificate. Alternatively, the mother or father can ask Vital Statistics to add his name to the certificate.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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