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HRH participates in the Paternity Establishment Program

South Boston News
The Virginia Paternity Establishment Program is designed to help unmarried parents assure that the father’s name appears on the birth certificate. The process is easy, free of charge and important to the child. Pictured are the birth registrars who, at Halifax Regional Hospital, help parents complete the necessary paperwork. From left to right are Carol Pattarini, Sheila Francis and Ben Woosley.
SoVaNow.com / June 07, 2010
The birth of a child is an exciting time for parents. But what if the parents are not married?

The Virginia Paternity Establishment Program is designed to help unmarried parents assure that the father’s name appears on the birth certificate, and at Halifax Regional Hospital and other hospitals throughout the state, the procedure is important, simple and free.

After a baby is born, an unmarried mother and the child’s biological father will be asked to consider the importance of helping their baby by putting the father’s name on the birth certificate, making him the legal father. The form used is called Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, and, at Halifax Regional is offered by one of three Birth Registrars.

“There are a number of reasons why we encourage parents to do this,” states Birth Registrar Carol Pattarini. “A child whose parents are both named on the birth certificate has the same rights as a child born to a married couple.”

Should the father die or become permanently disabled, for example, having his name legally on the birth certificate ensures benefits for the child such as medical or insurance benefits, inheritance, Social Security, disability or veteran’s benefits. The establishment of paternity can also assist with child support.

“Another very important reason to complete the Acknowledgement of Paternity,” Pattarini states, “is that it allows the child to have a complete medical history.”

If paternity is established, the child’s physician has access to the complete family history, if needed – important for hereditary conditions such as diabetes and sickle cell. Or, should a child or parent need a donor for a transplant, knowing who the immediate family members are is critical.

By establishing a legal relationship, a father insures himself of having rights also - the same rights as the father of a child born in a marriage. These include such rights as the father’s ability to address visitation and custody with the court and to give input regarding decisions that impact the child. Paternity establishment assures that the biological father can decide if his child may be adopted and, should something unfortunate happen to the mother and she is no longer able to care for the child, the father’s legal rights to the child are protected.

Further reasons why paternity establishment is important include self esteem and shared parenting. Generally children respond better when given love and support from both parents. And, when the father’s name is listed on the birth certificate, the child has a complete birth record. Parenting is the responsibility of both the father and the mother. Early paternity establishment may lead to increased involvement of the father in the child’ life. Once a legal relationship is established the father is more likely to maintain his own relationship with his child as the years go by.

“The process of establishing paternity is not difficult for either the mother or the father,” Pattarini says. “We provide the necessary form along with information about the program and we are available to answer any questions that the mother and the father may have. All that is needed is a photo ID. The form must be signed in front of a Notary, which is no problem at the hospital because all of the Birth Registrars here are Notaries. And, when it is done in the hospital after the child’s birth it does not cost the parents anything.”

If the parents choose not to complete the form before the baby is discharged from the hospital and the birth certificate has been registered with the Office of Vital Records, they may still decide to complete the Acknowledgement of Paternity, but will need to contact the Office of Vital Records, the Division of Child Support Enforcement or the local Department of Health and will be charged a fee to change the birth certificate.

“We encourage all unmarried parents to strongly consider completing the Acknowledgement of Paternity,” Pattarini states, “because it is all for the good of the child.”To learn more about the Virginia Paternity Establishment Program visit http://www.vapaternity.org.

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