Should You Name the Father on Your Baby's Birth Certificate?

Naming the father on the birth certificate

Verywell / Elise Degarmo 

There's a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of single mothers, fathers, and birth certificates. First, you should know that legally including the father's name on a state-issued birth certificate requires his participation.

If he happens to be unavailable—because you don't know who he is or cannot locate him—it's a non-issue. Even if you listed him on the application, it wouldn't make it onto the actual birth certificate without his signature on a legal Acknowledgement of Paternity form.

Naming the Father Benefits Your Child

If your baby's father is involved, then naming him on the birth certificate doesn't necessarily benefit him, but it could benefit your child. For example, let's say that the father died while your child was still a minor. If you legally acknowledge paternity by including the father on your child's birth certificate, then your child will be eligible to receive Social Security death benefits.

Custody Concerns

The idea that including the father on the birth certificate makes it easier for him to get custody is a misconception. In reality, your baby's father can formally request custody or visitation at any time—whether he's on the birth certificate or not.

All he has to do is file a request with your local family court. If he were not already on the birth certificate, then the court's response would include paternity testing, but it wouldn't make the judge more or less likely to grant him custody or visitation.

Receiving Assistance

If you currently receive state assistance in the form of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or if you apply for benefits in the future, the government will require you to name your child's father so that they can attempt to recover child support payments from him.

Should You Include the Father on the Birth Certificate?

Ultimately, the decision of whether to include your baby's father on the birth certificate is an intensely personal one. Consider the conversations you've had with your baby's father thus far about his intentions to be involved after the baby is born.

If he acknowledges that the baby is his, and he's going to be an active part of the child's life, then it is worthwhile to go through the process of formally ​acknowledging paternity when you complete the initial birth certificate application.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a father to be reluctant to sign an acknowledgement of paternity. Formally acknowledging paternity is a huge commitment and opens the door to him being responsible for the child financially as well. If he's reluctant, you could request paternity testing after your baby is born. If you decide to file for child support, the state will conduct paternity testing for you.

Birth Certificate FAQs

Deciding whether to name your child's father on their birth certificate doesn't end there. Here are some quick reference answers to more of the most frequently asked questions:

How can the father get included on the birth certificate?

You would both have to sign an affidavit legally acknowledging him as the birth father. The hospital can provide you with this paperwork after the birth.

Does the father have to be present at birth to be listed on the birth certificate?

No. If he happens to be there, he can fill out the paperwork in person. If not, he can complete the affidavit later.

Will your baby automatically be given her father's last name if you include him on the birth certificate?

No, you can choose to give your baby your last name, the father's last name, or a hyphenated combination of both.

Can you add the father's name to the birth certificate later?

Yes. If you don't include him on the birth certificate at the time of your baby's birth, you can later have the birth certificate amended.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Child Welfare Information Gateway. The Rights of Unmarried Fathers.

  2. Office of Child Support Enforcement. Establishing fatherhood. In: Child Support Handbook. Washington, DC: Office of Child Support Enforcement, 2013.

  3. National Conference of State Legislatures. Child Support Tutorial.

  4. Child Support Services Division. Birth certificates.

By Jennifer Wolf
Jennifer Wolf is a PCI Certified Parent Coach and a strong advocate for single moms and dads.