Does Father Have Any Rights if He has Not Signed or Put His Name on the Birth Certificate?

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“Does my son’s father have any legal right to him if we were never married and he did not sign the birth certificate?

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My son is 20 months old and I want to make sure that I am the only one who has legal rights over him. His father never wanted to sign the birth certificate and has been in and out of my son’s life. He has never asked for a paternity test (because he does know he is the father) and I have never asked for child support (I don’t want money from someone who doesn’t care enough to support his son). I just want to make sure that if his father ever tried to take him, that I have the right to call the police, and that I am the one who has the legal parental rights.”

Absent a paternity action, it seems very unlikely that your child’s father will ever be able to exercise his legal rights vis a vis your son.

However, birth certificates, like many documents, can be amended, and just because a name does not appear on a birth certificate does not automatically extinguish parental rights. Still, even though he has rights, he may not be able to exercise them without either your consent or some other court order.

You are free to live your life how you want to live it. Studies have shown that children do better across the board if they have male and female influences in their life. And having a mother and a father usually provides a more stable base from which to sprout a future happy and healthy adult. In an informal survey I just conducted of my office mates, 92% of those asked would want to know who their father was if they otherwise did not know. It is unclear from your question whether he is holding himself out to the community as the child’s father.

I suppose you are probably not on public assistance (AFDC, Medicaid, etc.) and never will be. That, of course, would not be fair to the rest of the taxpayers who would share the support of your child if you ever went that route. It really is your child’s right to support that you are foregoing by not pursuing child support, but I suppose your expenses are well enough covered that some additional support from the father wouldn’t sometimes help. And you never want a break from watching your son. You might have that covered with extended family, but there really is no substitute for a father or a mother.

There are so many reasons for enforcing your child’s rights, even though this triggers responsibilities and rights for his father. I can only ask you to keep your child’s best interests at heart in making your decisions.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.