It is not uncommon for fathers who consult with me regarding obtaining their father’s rights to ask about changing their child’s last name and adding th Birth Certificateeir name to child’s birth certificate. There are many reasons why their name may not have been on the birth certificate or the child’s mother chose a different last name for the child than the fathers.
I would say the number one reason reported to me by both fathers and mothers was the father was not present for the child birth. I have heard many reasons for this from:
- “I was not invited” from a father to
- “The father was invited and he was there at first but he left to go be with his girlfriend” from a mother
In today’s blog post we will discuss 1) why being present at a child’s birth matters in regards to naming a child and father’s name being on a birth certificate and 2) What can be done if your name does not make it onto the birth certificate in Texas 3) How you can change the last name of your child
Being Present at your Child’s Birth Can have Legal Significance
There are a multiple of reasons why it is a good idea to be present at your child’s birth. As a father, myself it was never a question in my mind on whether I would be present. The experience of becoming a father begins the moment your child is born. Becoming a father, starts on the journey of a lifetime.
One of the complaints I receive from fathers who miss the birth of their child is that their name is not on their child’s birth certificate and the mother chose a different last name. By being absent at the time of their child’s birth they were also absent when the following forms get filled out at the hospital:
- Acknowledgment of Paternity
- Mother’s Worksheet for Child’s Birth Certificate
What is an Acknowledgment of Paternity?
The voluntary signing of an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form is one of 5 ways to establish paternity. Usually this is done at the hospital soon after the child’s birth because of convenience. The child’s mother and father are usually there together and eager to secure the child’s legal connection to his or her father.
Most parents come to the hospital planning for the father’s name will be on the birth certificate. In Texas, a man who is not married to the child’s mother must sign the AOP before his name can go on the birth certificate. Thus, if a father is not married to the other and not present at the child’s birth then the mother will not be able to add the child’s fathers name to the birth certificate without the father signing this form.
Getting the Child’s Birth Certificate Amended
Two ways to get a child’s birth certificate amended include:
- Outside of Court if there have been no court proceedings started
- Through the Courts in Texas
Outside of Court
If the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form was not completed in the hospital it may later be completed outside of the hospital by agreement with the mother. However, this is a form that you and the mother cannot complete by yourself. In fact, the form is restricted and only available through certified entities.
The form must be witnessed by someone who has taken a special Acknowledgement of Paternity course and who has been assigned a certified entity code. This is a course that must be annually renewed. The witness must read warnings to those signing the form of the legal significance of doing so. This generally why it is often easier to take care of this in the hospital which is equipped for this purpose.
Once and AOP has been completed and received by the State Health Department Vital Statistics Unit from all parties of the AOP, you must complete an Application Based on Parentage form. This form is used to change and add a father to the birth certificate. This form may also be used to change the child's last name at the same time.
Through the Court System
If not everyone will sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity, then it will be necessary to establish paternity through the court system. A court order is all necessary to establish:
- Rights and Duties
- Child Support
Thus, if you are looking to do more than get your name listed as the father on a birth certificate or change the last name of the child then it may be necessary to seek these remedies through the court. The cause of action that you will filing will be a Petition to Adjudicate Paternity.
In your Petition, you can ask for your paternity be established and the birth certificate be amended.
Factors a Court Will Considered
This is a decision of the court will be based on the “best interest of the child.” Currently the Texas Supreme Court has identified what factors should be considered when determining if a name change is in a child’s best interest. But appellate courts in Texas and other jurisdictions have identified many such nonexclusive factors. The 14TH District Court of Appeals in Houston in “In Re H.S.B. 401 S.W.3d 77 (Tex. App -Houston [14th Dist.] 2011) provided the following factors as being the most relevant in the majority of cases:
- the name that would best avoid anxiety, embarrassment, inconvenience, confusion, or disruption for the child, which may include consideration of parental misconduct and the degree of community respect (or disrespect) associated with the name,
- the name that would best help the child’s associational identity within a family unit, which may include whether a change in name would positively or negatively affect the bond between the child and either parent or the parents’ families,
- assurances by the parent whose surname the child will bear that the parent will not change his or her surname at a later time,
- the length of time the child has used one surname and the level of identity the child has with the surname,
- the child’s preference, along with the age and maturity of the child, and
- whether either parent is motivated by concerns other than the child’s best interest—for example, an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent.
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