The Law States: An unmarried woman who gives birth to a child has custody of the child automatically.
Rights of an Unmarried Father
If you are an unwed father, there are some things that you need to know in order to gain parental rights.
If you are an unmarried father, you will need to establish paternity to prove that you are in fact the father of the child. Without establishing paternity, an unwed father has no legal rights to a child in relation to child custody, visitation and other decision making.
Some rights of a parent:
• the right to decide who sees the child and for how long
• the right to enroll the child in school
• the right to get public benefits for the child
• the right to obtain medical treatment
• the right to restrict visitation
Unwed Fathers Will Need to Establish Paternity
The easiest way to establish paternity is to include the unwed father’s name on the baby’s birth certificate. When a child is born outside of a marriage – there is no legal presumption of paternity. If you are at the hospital with the mother when the baby is born and are able to help her fill out the birth certificate to include both of your names as mother and father, then paternity is established. In some case’s this may not be possible for a variety of reasons. In these cases, an unwed father can complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form in your state.
If the mother contests the father’s paternity, the father can petition a court to establish his right to paternity. The unwed father will need to take a paternity test to prove he is the father of the child.
Child Custody & Visitation Agreements
After paternity is confirmed, parents can begin negotiating a parenting agreement or parenting plan. A parenting agreement / plan will normally include details like which parent will have primary custody, specifics on the other parents visitation schedule, details on which parent will make decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, religion, and procedures for how potential changes to the arrangement will be handled.
The visitation rights of unmarried fathers will also depend on other factors like their relationship with the child, any drug or alcohol use, or any history of child of past child abuse, etc.
If both parties are unable to agree to a parenting agreement / plan the either parent may petition the court for child visitation or custody help. If the parents cannot agree on these arrangements, either one may ask the court to grant his or her request through a contested hearing.
Courts deciding on child custody and visitation issues will determine what is in the best interest of the child. Courts assume that most children will benefit from having both parents involved in their care. If one parent can show evidence that the other parent would likely cause harm to the child, then the courts will take this into consideration when making a decision.
To learn more about unmarried fathers’ custody rights contact an experienced family law attorney for help.
A Lawyer Can Help Protect the Rights of Unmarried Fathers
Each state has its own laws surrounding these issues. Unmarried fathers need to understand their parental rights. Contact a local attorney to understand your rights as it relates to children and unmarried fathers.