March 4, 2005
PATERNITY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ON BIRTH CERTIFICATES
By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst
You asked for a legislative history of PA 04-255, particularly the provisions affecting how a post-birth court order or acknowledgement of paternity is recorded on a birth certificate.
PA 04-255 originated as HB 5628, An Act Concerning Funeral Directors and Vital Records, which was introduced at the request of the Public Health Department (DPH). Section 15 affects how a court order or an acknowledgement of paternity, both at birth and post-birth, is recorded on a birth certificate, and section 16 specifies to whom DPH can grant access and issue certified copies of a paternity acknowledgement.
DPH requested the bill, but neither public hearing testimony nor House and Senate debates explain the intent of these provisions. Beth Frugale of DPH's vital records unit recently explained that, by linking the change of paternity and the child's name change, the act removed any possibility that a child's name could be changed by filing an acknowledgement or court order without establishing paternity on the birth certificate.
PA 04-255 CHANGES
The law governing the content of birth certificates (CGS § 7-50) requires recording information on whether a child was born in or out of wedlock and the mother's marital status, but only on the confidential portion of the birth certificate. If the acknowledgement is made at a hospital at the time of birth (or at the town registrar of vital statistics in the case of a home birth), the father's name is entered on the birth certificate and transmitted to DPH.
If the paternity acknowledgement is made later or paternity is established by court order, DPH enters this information on the birth certificate. But if another father's information is already recorded on the certificate, it cannot be removed unless DPH receives a court order finding that (1) the person recorded on the birth certificate is not the child's father or (2) a person other than the one recorded is the child's father. (PA 01-163 added this provision.) PA 04-255 requires that this court order be certified.
Prior law governing the amendment of birth records (CGS § 19a-42) required DPH to include on, or amend, a child's birth certificate to show paternity if it was not already shown or to change the child's name, or both, upon receiving (1) a lawfully executed acknowledgment of paternity by both parents of a child born out of wedlock or (2) a certified copy of a court order establishing the child's paternity. If another man's name was on the birth certificate, DPH could not remove or replace this information unless it was presented with a court order meeting these requirements.
PA 04-255 links the child's name change to the paternity acknowledgement on the birth certificate; it can no longer change the name without establishing paternity on the record. If paternity had not previously been stated on the certificate, it requires DPH to list paternity and change the child's name, if the latter is indicated in the certified court order or the acknowledgement form.
If another father is already listed, the act permits DPH to remove or replace the father's information on the birth certificate if it receives a properly filed rescission (CGS § 46b-172(a) permits a mother and putative father to rescind the acknowledgement within 60 days of making it or by the date the father agreed to support the child, whichever is earlier). It could already do this if it received a certified copy of a court order meeting the requirements in CGS § 7-50. After changing the father's name, DPH can change the child's name, if this is requested. Birth certificates on which the father's name is changed are not to be marked as “amended.” (This prohibition previously applied also to birth certificate on which no father was listed.)
The act also requires DPH to restrict access to and issuance of certified copies of acknowledgements of paternity to (1) parents named on the acknowledgement; (2) the person whose birth is acknowledged, if over 18; (3) an authorized Department of Social Services (DSS) representative; (4) an attorney representing the person or a parent named on the acknowledgment; or (5) agents of a state or federal agency, as approved by DPH. Access is not restricted for the “IV-D agency,” which refers to the DSS Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, which administers the child support program mandated by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
The Public Health Committee raised HB 5628 at DPH's request. During a March 11 public hearing, Lisa Kessler from the department's vital records section testified that the proposed changes were necessary to: (1) protect the confidentiality of birth records, (2) address issues regarding the death registration process, and (3) clarify existing vital records statutes. Most of the testimony centered on the bill's provisions governing genealogists' access to birth certificates and filing death certificates; no one testified on the paternity acknowledgement provisions. However, the committee's JF report noted that the bill ensured “that information about paternity be accurate within certain parameters with possible changes protected by the Commissioner of Public Health.”
The debate in the House did not touch on paternity acknowledgement, and the Senate passed the bill on consent.
Beth Frugale of DPH's vital records section recently explained that, by linking the change of paternity and the child's name change, the act removed any possibility that a child's name could be changed by filing an acknowledgement or court order without also establishing paternity on the birth certificate.