Unmarried Mom: Why Must We Prove Paternity to Get Tricare for Baby?

toddler and baby sitting on the floor
(Christina Bennett/DVIDS)

My fiancé is medically retired from the Army. We had a son four months ago. After he was born, he was on my insurance from my former employer, but that insurance is no longer in place.

Since his birth, we have been trying to get him covered under his dad's insurance through Tricare, and we have gotten the run-around. We went and spoke with a horrible woman who works on Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and were told that DEERS wouldn't recognize my fiancé as our son's father without proof of paterniity.

Why is a birth certificate not proof of paternity?! What difference does it make if his father and I are married?! What confuses me the most is that somehow as soon as we get married, it doesn't matter if our son is his biological child? Do you have any words of wisdom as to why this program is so ridiculous?

There's nothing low stress about registering someone in the military Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Add a complicated family situation to the mix, and the stress is sure to go up.

To register a baby in DEERS when the father is not married to the mother, you are required to supply the Defense Department with three things: the child's birth certificate, the child's Social Security card and either a court order establishing paternity or a state voluntary order of paternity form. Those official documents mean that for the state and everyone else, the dad is, at least in part, financially responsible for the child. The state voluntary order of paternity may not require an actual paternity test, but you could certainly get one as part of the process.

I know the process may seem ridiculous to you, but the military does it this way for a reason. These safeguards help it make sure that it is not providing military benefits to someone who is not legally entitled to them. It also helps the military protect the service member from someone claiming to have their child -- and the child from being illegally ignored by the unmarried service member later. The paternity form requirement is for everyone's protection, including the child's.

Since every state operates a little differently, I suggest turning to Google for a quick internet search to find your state's voluntary paternity form or court order process. 

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