When a woman and man are married and a child is born, the state assumes that he is the father. However, when a woman has a child out of wedlock, there is no presumption of fatherhood. In many cases, the woman names the father on the birth certificate giving the father the rights he is entitled. In other situations, the woman either does not definitively know who the father is or chooses not to name him. If you find yourself in one of the latter cases and feel you are the father of a child, you do have certain rights and responsibilities. In those situations, there is a process to establish paternity and gain your rights as the father.
How to Establish Paternity
The simplest manner is to fill out an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” form and submit it. If the birth mother is not willing to admit you are the father or you are not completely sure you are the father, you can request a paternity test. If the mother is uncooperative, a court order can force her to comply. Your family attorney can help you through the process.
What are Your Rights as an Unmarried Father?
In most cases your rights as an unmarried father in relation to the child are much the same as that of a married or divorced father. You can file for custody or visitation. If there are medical issues, you have the right to provide input for the care of the child. As a father, you have rights to the child’s academic records and to be involved in decisions related to schooling.
With Rights Come Responsibilities
If you are granted visitation and custody, you have the responsibility to be there for the child. Whether that means picking them up from school, the mother’s home, or a neutral location you should be there when you say you will. You also must return them at the appointed time. Depending on the time sharing and income of both parties you may be responsible for child support.
Why You Officially Establish Paternity
You and the mother may have a good relationship and not see the need to involve the state, however, there are many reasons you should officially establish paternity. First, should something happen to the mother and you are not legally the father, the child could go into foster care while you and the state take the steps to establish paternity. Second, should you and the mother have a falling out, you will still have the same rights to the child as you do today. Finally, if you were to die, your child would be your beneficiary which could benefit them.
As a Family Attorney, We Can Help
Wagstaff & Pitelis is your Clearwater based family attorney. We can help you legally establish paternity, file for custody and visitation, and help work out child support. Call us today at (727) 584-8182 for your consultation to learn more about our services and how we can help you.