Before going any further, there is a threshold question as to which I am a bit unclear. Specifically, given that you were unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, has the biological father’s “legal paternity
” of the child been established by one of the authorized legal means provided by law for doing so? Typically, this would have occurred, for example, if you and the father jointly signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form and filed it with your state’s Vital Records agency (often but erroneously thought of by many as meaning that “He signed the birth certificate), or if there was a lawsuit (either administrative of judicial) filed against him either by you or a child support enforcement agency seeking to declare his legal paternity of the child (and usually obtain a child support order as part of the same proceeding).
Keep in mind that in the case of child born to an unmarried woman, until and unless legal paternity of the child has been established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so, the child’s biological father has no legal rights (and no legal responsibilities). He is, in the eyes of the law, a “non-entity,” the same as if he does not exist. So in your case, if legal paternity has never been lawfully and properly established, there is nothing that you should or need to now do. Just leave well-enough alone.
You said you have “filed for child support.” Again, there can be no child support order until and unless legal paternity has been previously established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so. If you have filed for child support and legal paternity has not been previously established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so, paternity establishment will be part of the legal proceeding. So if that is case, you might want to withdraw your request for support enforcement services and direct support enforcement to discontinue their efforts.
Also, as to names..... when a child is born to an unmarried woman, there is only one parent, at least in the eyes of the law. And that is the child’s mother. And this continues until and unless legal paternity is established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so. So when the child is born, the mother can give the child any name she wants. Be it her own last name, the last name of the child’s biological father, or anybody else’s name. The name given to the child has absolutely no legal connection with the paternity of the child. Had you wanted to do so, you could have name the child Elvis Presley, Jr.. It would in no way implicate or legally imply that Elvis Presely is the child’s father. Further, if and when legal paternity is ultimately established, if ever, it does not result in any automatic change of the child’s name. There is no right on the part of a legal father to have the child carry his name. And the legal obligation to pay child support, if so ordered, does mean that he has a right to demand that the child have his name.
If legal paternity has never been established, then you are --- in the eyes of the law --- the child’s only parent. This means you are in full control. And if you want to change you child’s name, you are free to do so. No consent to anybody else is needed. (Except in some state’s you need the child’s consent if the child over a certain age, be it 13 or older. Not sure about Maryland law on this point.) Change-of-name legal proceedings are relatively easy, usually accomplished by do-it-yourself legal forms. HOWEVER, if legal paternity has been established, changing the child’s name will involve a requirement that the other parent (father) be given legal notice of your petition to the court for change of name. This does not mean you must have his consent, only that he would be entitled to “notice” and an opportunity
to file a written objection (which he most likely would not do, at least in the circumstances you are presenting). And if you cannot find him for purposes of “personal service” of the notice, you may have to obtain court permission to serve him with notice by some other means, such a “service by publication” involving a classified ad in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for four consecutive weeks. (Do a Google search for “Maryland change of name” and see what pops up.)
Also, when a child is born out of wedlock, the child’s birth certificate (regardless of the name given to the child) will not contain the name of anybody as being the child’s “father.” The line (or box) on the birth certificate will simply be filled in with a row of asterisks (“************”) just to show that the omission is intentional and not oversight. Thereafter, if and when legal paternity is established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so, Vital Record will then issue a new (or amended) birth certificate, this time showing name of father.
OK..... moving on...... If legal paternity has already been established in your case, you might want to consider withdrawing your request for support enforcement services. Experience shows that if and when he is finally found and money is extracted from him for child support, he will sure as shootin’ re-enter the picture and demand visitation “rights” with the child, perhaps even seeking custody. Although he will most likely not prevail, it will end-up costing you a lot of money and will be emotionally frustrating. Most men, even if not really interested in the child, feel compelled to demand their “rights” of visitation if they find themselves being compelled to pay child support. So this is something you need to consider. If right now he is out of the picture and not causing you any problems, the least detrimental alternate for you may very well be to simply do nothing.
Lastly, even if legal paternity has been previously established, that does not necessarily mean he has any legal right of visitation. He only would have legal rights of visitation if there is a court order establishing such rights. (And merely having legal paternity established does not automatically result in a court order for visitation rights. It is left up to the man who is the legal father to seek such rights, if he wants them.) Right now, you have full, sole legal and physical custody of the child by operation of law (based on your being the child’s mother) and there being no court order saying otherwise. He has no rights at this point, at least not until and unless in files a motion seeking court-ordered visitation rights, and the court grants his motion (which generally will be denied if the judge concludes that visitation would not be in the best interests of the child or would otherwise pose a danger to the child’s safety, security and welfare, be it physically, psychologically or otherwise).
OK. I hope I have satisfactorily addressed your questions and concerns.
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