For couples who aren’t married (or for married couples who may be separated) completing the baby’s birth certificate can be a little tricky. While laws can vary from state to state, there are some basics you should know.
Adding the father to the birth certificate
What’s in a name?
If you aren’t married, the hospital or birth center that you deliver at will most likely refer to your baby under your name. For instance, all of her hospital paperwork, medical records and ID bracelets will bear your last name. This is for identification purposes and doesn’t mean that your baby can’t have the legal last name of your choosing. You can still choose your baby’s legal last name when you fill out her birth certificate.
If you aren't married
If you and your partner are not married — but you want your baby to have his father’s last name — in some states you can assign the baby’s last name to match your partner’s by simply filling out the birth certificate. What you can’t do on the birth certificate if you aren’t married, however, is assign your partner as your baby’s father without an Affidavit of Parentage.
An Affidavit of Parentage legally establishes paternity and is a declaration of parenthood that both parents sign, basically declaring that both parents agree that they made a baby together. Some hospitals or birth centers can do the Affidavit of Parentage right at the hospital, while others may require you to make a separate appointment after you are discharged to complete the paperwork.
Even if you and your baby’s father don’t plan on staying together in a relationship, having an Affidavit of Parentage is important, and needs to be done in order for the baby to receive financial and legal support from his or her father. For instance, establishing paternity ensures the child is eligible for benefits such as Social Security, health insurance or military programs for the family. Some states allow the paternity paperwork to be filed at a later date (for instance, up to a year after birth) for a small fee or be revoked, if either parent changes his or her mind.
For couples who wish to obtain a DNA test before establishing paternity, some hospitals and centers are able to perform the test on-site, while others may refer you to an outside testing center.
What if your husband is not the father of your baby?
In cases of spousal separation or other special circumstances when the mother is legally married but her husband is not the father of her baby, things can get a little stickier. Most states will still legally recognize the husband as the father of the baby and will require that the husband formally relinquish his rights before paternity can be established.
Can a same-sex partner be on the birth certificate?
If you happen to live in a state that legally recognizes gay unions, then the answer is maybe. A report by Laura Deaton, policy research director of Movement Advancement Project, states that although most states that recognize same-sex unions will also legally recognize both parents on the birth certificate, it is still recommended that the couple pursues legal adoption to ensure protection of all legal rights.
While it is important to educate yourself on the details surrounding establishing paternity and parental rights, laws will vary from state to state, so be sure to check with your local department of health and human services for a complete listing of the laws in your area.