In a word, no. The biological father does not have rights if he is not on the birth certificate.
If the biological father’s name isn’t on the birth certificate, which usually happens if the baby’s parents weren’t married at the time of birth, the biological father has no legal or other rights.
Sadly, many fathers are good with that, if they have a decent relationship with the child’s mother. Most mothers allow informal visitation in these situations. Additionally, many men think that no legal rights alo means no legal obligation, such as a child support obligation.
Think again. In most states, unless a court order states otherwise, fathers have a legal obligation to pay child support. The attorney general enforces this obligation, at least in most states.
Moreover, some men still believe it doesn’t matter if their name is on the child’s birth certificate. They believe they don’t have any rights. Once upon a time, when courts used the tender years doctrine and mothers always got full custody of young children, that was true. But those days are long gone.
Furthermore, relationships change. Fathers who aren’t listed on the birth certificate have no visitation rights. Instead, the mother dictates the visitation schedule. Moreover, in most jurisdictions, the mother can move or even put the child up for adoption without giving notice to a putative father (biological father).
Legal Options for Fathers
Available alternatives vary in different states. However, in most cases, it’s relatively easy to become a legal father, even if the father doesn’t have a family law attorney.
- Marriage: There’s probably a reason the parents weren’t married at the time of the child’s birth. However, if they do get married, legal parentage is presumed.
- Affidavit: Most states allow putative fathers to sign affidavits at hospitals. These affidavits add the man’s name to the child’s birth certificate. Other states allow putative fathers to simply sign the birth certificate. This option creates an administrative parent/child relationship. More on that below.
- Paternity Case: A legal petition establishes a legal relationship. If the mother contests paternity, a simple genetic test confirms or denies paternity.
Fathers have significant legal rights. But they can only assert these rights if they have a legal or administrative relationship with a child.
Types/Benefits of Paternity
Usually, signing the birth certificate creates an administrative relationship for child support purposes only. That’s not much of a relationship, but it’s better than nothing. Normally, fathers pay child support through online portals. So, there’s never a dispute as to the amount paid.
A legal relationship, which only a paternity case or parental marriage creates, gives a father many more rights, including the right to:
- Reasonable visitation,
- Receive notice bout residence changes and other life changes,
- Attend piano recitals and other activities, and
- Inherit from the child.
Paternity has significant benefits for children as well. The court sets up a regular and predictable visitation schedule. Furthermore, when the child goes to the doctor, the physician has complete access to the child’s entire family medical history.
Finally, in most cases, only legal fathers have the right to become full-time custodial parents.