Worldwide around 25-70% of all babies are born out of wedlock. In the United States as of 2007, that rate was 40% and climbing, leaving a great deal of mother’s wondering whose last name to write on that birth certificate.
Legal issues to consider when choosing your baby’s last name:
Moms have the power.
This brings us to our first fact about choosing your babies last name, the mother is the one with the power to decide. A father cannot force a mother to give his baby his last name. A mother can also write any last name she pleases down. She can give her baby her last name, the father’s last name, or even her great, great grandfather’s last name. It’s the father’s name on the birth certificate that must be supported by proof.
Paternity must be proven for the name of the father.
Paternity proof is required for protection of the father. The father must either sign a notarized affidavit of paternity voluntarily stating he is the father or submit to a DNA test to prove he is the father if he does not agree that he is. This is done because the name of the father placed on the birth certificate is the person that will be held accountable for child support should the mother file. As you can imagine if a woman could write any name she wanted down without proof this could cause legal issues when the man refused to pay on the basis the child wasn’t his.
Divorced couples are a little different.
There is an exception to this law if the father and mother were married during the baby’s conception. In the case of married couples the mother can write the father’s name on the birth certificate without proof of paternity. If a father is listed on a birth certificate under this exception and feels he is not the father, he may challenge the certificate in court and will need to prove he is not the father by DNA test. A woman may also list no father on the birth certificate in the United States. In some countries such as the UK, a father must be listed.
Fathers do have rights.
If a man feels he is the father and the mother refuses to list him on the birth certificate he can take legal action to force her to do so to protect his rights later to see the child as well as the right of the child to know his/her heritage. In this case a DNA test would be ordered. While the father can also request the last name of the child be changed, judges rarely do so.
A child’s last name has no legal ramifications or advantages.
Even if an unwed mother chooses to give the baby the father’s last name this does not increase his chances of getting custody at a later date. This is why the mother can choose whatever last name she likes for her child. A last name has no legal advantages or ramifications of any kind.
Personal aspects to consider when choosing a last name for your baby:
In the end personal choice is what plays the most important role in choosing a baby’s last name. If you are with the father but not married it’s best to discuss whose last name your baby will have with the father. You may even seek a compromise such as a hyphenated last name or listing both.
Some other factors you may consider:
-Easier for the child. If you are not or are not sure you’ll be with the father forever and plan to have custody your child having your last name will eliminate the need to explain to your child and your child’s friends later in life why he/she has a different last name than you do. If your new baby has existing siblings also consider what their last names are.
-How it sounds. Some parents opt for one name or another because it goes better with the first and middle names they’ve chosen.
-Continuing a family name. If you are together or on good terms sometimes considering family circumstance can help. For instance my husband was the last male in his mother’s line so he was given a hyphenated last name to continue his mother’s family name despite tradition commonly being new baby’s take their father’s name.
Whichever last name you choose to give your new baby stand firm on you decision. Don’t let others pressure you into a choice that is not only important but very difficult to change at a later date.
Some more articles you may enjoy:
Are disposable diapers safe?
Becoming pregnant while on the birth control pill
I’m pregnant, What now? Dealing with teen pregnancy
Worldwide Statistics on Babies born out of wedlock
Laws regarding babies born out of wedlock: