All parents, whether married or not, have child custody and visitation rights. However, unmarried parents have to go through different hoops to enforce these rights. The process is also different for unmarried mothers and fathers. Below are some things you should know about custody and visitation rights as an unmarried father.
A Mother Often Gets Parental Rights
In many cases, the mother often gets parental rights right after the baby is born. These parental rights usually include custody rights. This is especially true if the father is unknown or doesn’t want to be involved with the baby’s upbringing. In that case, the mother usually makes the decisions about the child’s living situation, choice of daycare, religious upbringing, and vacation times.
A mother can also try to establish parental rights with the father with a court order. The father will be informed of his rights as the baby’s father, including details on visitation and custody.
You Don’t Have Automatic Visitation Rights
The father does not always get automatic rights to the child. The lack of automatic recognition does not mean that the law denies your parental rights. Do not just expect the court to enforce any of your rights at this time until it confirms your legal rights to the child.
Many couples come up with informal arrangements to ensure their child’s access and care from both parents. Try to negotiate such an arrangement before you get a legal claim to the child.
You May Need to Establish Paternity
Establish paternity first if the mother has refused your association with the child. The establishment is the first step to getting custody or visitation rights with the child. Below are three main ways to establish paternity.
1. Fill Out the Birth Certificate
The simplest way to establish paternity is to have your name on the child’s birth certificate. You can do this by signing the birth certificate soon after the baby’s delivery. You are the child’s legal father once your name is on the birth certificate, and the mother has to follow a specific legal process to remove your name from the certificate.
2. Fill the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form
All is not lost if you did not sign the child’s birth certificate after birth. The voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form gives you have another opportunity to establish paternity. You and the mother must fill and sign the form, and then file it with the state government.
3. Request Genetic Testing
The first two paternity methods only work if the mother has denied you custody or visitation rights, but they have accepted you as the child’s father. However, situations exist where the mother even denies you as the child’s father. You have to petition the court for a genetic test that confirms you as the child’s father in such a case.
A DNA test is a common genetic test that most courts accept. You can even get a court order that requires the mother to comply with the testing requirements. For example, the court may compel them to avail the baby. File a custody and visitation request once you establish paternity.
Hopefully, you will get the best custody and visitation arrangement for your child, even if you have disagreed with the mother. The Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC, can help you protect your legal rights so that you can spend time with your child. Contact us for a consultation on your child custody case. We look forward to helping you understand your rights as a father and answering any questions or concerns you have about your situation. Get in touch today.