If you are a father who is not married to your child’s mother, you might not know that there are certain legal considerations that pertain to you so that you can establish paternity and maintain the right to parent your child. Read on to find out about what your rights are if you are unmarried and no longer with the mother of your child.
Establishing paternity is how you will make it so that your rights are the same as the rights of a married father. When a woman gives birth, it is assumed that her husband is the father of the child. Even if he is not the biological father, there is nothing he has to do to have his name on the child’s birth certificate.
If you are able to be in the hospital or birthing center with the mother of your child and you can have your name added to the birth certificate, you have established paternity. If you are in a relationship with the mother or she is willing to put you on the birth certificate because she knows that you are the father and she wants you to have rights to the child, then you don’t need to do anything else.
The problem occurs when the mother denies that you are the father or refuses to allow you to visit in the hospital. In this case, you will need to take extra steps to establish paternity.
You can prove that you are your child’s father by asking for a paternity test. Depending on your state’s law, a judge might compel your child’s mother to cooperate with the test and allow the child to be tested. A swab of the inside of the cheek is all that is needed in most cases to establish that you are (or are not) the father. Once the results are back, you will have proof either way as to whether you are or are not the father of the baby.
Get on the Registry
Many states have a registry that unmarried fathers can add themselves to so they are notified if the child’s mother puts the baby up for adoption or tries to claim sole custody. This prevents one of these actions from being taken without your consent and knowledge. As soon as you know that the mother of your child is pregnant, you can put yourself on the registry. You might need to prove that you belong on the registry by taking a paternity test once the baby is born.
Fighting for Custody of Your Child
Once paternity has been established, you have the same rights to fight for custody of your child that you would have if you were married to his or her mother. This means that you can ask for joint legal and physical custody. Legal custody means that you have just as much say as the mother about where the child goes to school, when he or she sees a doctor, or what religion the child is to be raised with. Physical custody means that you have equal rights to have the child spend time in your home as outlined in a co-parenting schedule or visitation schedule. Keep in mind that joint custody does not necessarily mean that you will have the child 50 percent of the time. That will depend on what the court decides is in the best interest of the child.
Importance of a Father
Your contribution to the care of your child goes far beyond paying child support and seeing your child once in a while. Studies have shown that children do much better in childhood and in their adult lives when they have an actively involved father. Girls are less likely to get pregnant as teens and children of both sexes are less likely to end up addicted to drugs or in jail.
You can create and maintain a great relationship with your child despite not living with him or her full-time. It is important that you are affectionate and supportive of your child. Spend time with them and be willing and ready to enforce rules and boundaries. It helps if you can create a co-parenting plan with the mother of the child and if the two of you can be flexible about switching visiting times to correlate with vacations, illnesses, and so on. Even if you cannot do this, however, you can still have a long-lasting and positive impact on your child.
Pursuing Child Custody
Whether your child is an infant, a teenager, or anywhere in between, you can petition the court to ask for joint custody or visitation of the child. If you aren’t sure where to start, a legal advocacy group like Family Law Legal Group can help. We work with fathers who are trying to achieve custody of their children whether they were unmarried or married to their child’s mother. We can walk you through the process of representing yourself in court as you ask for the chance to parent and create a relationship with your son or daughter.
Another option is to hire a private attorney, but the main disadvantage is that private lawyers are extremely expensive. In fact, many fathers don’t know that there are less expensive options available and since they can’t afford an attorney, make the heartbreaking decision to not pursue custody. In those cases, it is solely up to the mother to decide when and if a dad can see his child, which is unfair and often in neither the father’s nor the child’s best interest.
Contact Family Law Legal Group today to learn more about how we can help you assert your rights to your child even if you were not married to your child’s mother at the time of his or her birth. You have the right to see and parent your child, and we can help you make that happen by working with the court system and showing you all of your options and resources.