by Cathy Butler
Now that we are honoring father's day, what a great time to talk about what a father means to his children and what unmarried parents can do to ensure their child has a "legal father." It is important to mention that many new parents believe that by naming the child after the father, such as ________, Jr. or the III, this will create a legal bond between the father and child. This belief, however, is not true. At the time of birth each hospital is required by VA Code to offer each unmarried parent the opportunity to complete an acknowledgement of paternity form prior to discharge. This form is then notarized by the Birth Registrar after viewing appropriate identification and is then sent to the Division of Vital Records to amend the birth certificate. Now a legal bond is created between the father and child. Why is this important?
Happy Father's Day! Today we celebrate the valuable role fathers play in the lives of their children. In 2010, over 40% of births were to unmarried parents and over 13,000 children left the hospital without a father's name on the birth certificate.
A Few Good Reasons Why You Should Consider Establishing Paternity Today
• Self Esteem – Generally children do better when given love and support from both parents.
• Shared Parenting – Parenting is the responsibility of both parents. Early paternity establishment may lead to increased involvement of the father in the child's life.
• Medical History – It is important for the child and his or her physician to know about genetic traits, family medical history, or conditions that may present any special health problems.
• Important Rights – When paternity is established, the father has the same rights as a father of a child born in a marriage, such as the right to give input regarding decisions that impact the child and the ability to address visitation and custody with the court.
• Secure Adoptions – Paternity establishment assures that the biological father can decide if his child may be adopted.
If You Are Expecting a Baby Soon and Are Unmarried:
• The father's name is not automatically added to the birth certificate unless a simple acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) form is completed.
• The hospital staff will be there to help you fill out the AOP.
• It is important to bring valid ID with you to the hospital.
• It is free if the AOP form is completed before leaving the hospital.
• No DNA or blood tests are necessary if both are certain of the father.
If you have more questions, please contact the Paternity Establishment Program at 866/398-4841. Or go to our website at www.vapaternity.org