Monday, February 24, 2014

Legal Rights For Unwed Fathers

When a child is born out of wedlock, both the mother and the father have certain legal rights with respect to the child. State laws vary, but there are similarities. Once a man has been declared as the father of the child, the father gains all of the rights of a married father. In order to possess these rights, it is imperative that the unwed father established his status as father of the child. Thereafter, the corresponding rights automatically flow to the unwed father.

Designation of Father

In order to retain rights as an unwed father, it is necessary to meet the definition in your jurisdiction as to what constitutes a father. Most states include statutory definitions that include men who are listed on the birth certificate of the child; a man holding himself out to be the child's father and living with the mother and child; a man who has been determined by the court to be the child's father; a man who is referenced in an affidavit by the mother indicating that he is the child's father; and a man who has filed for paternity in a court of law.


Once a man has been established as the father of the child, he has the same right to custody of the child as any other married father. Therefore, the father is entitled to some form of custody of the child--either full-time or shared custody with the mother. Moreover, the father can petition the court for custody and must demonstrate that it is in the best interests of the child to place the child in his custody.


Another right of an unwed father who has been designated as the legal father of the child is the right to child visitation. The issue of child visitation generally comes up when the father does not have custody of the child but seeks to spend time with the child on a part-time basis. In order to obtain the right to visitation, the unwed father can either work the details out amicably with the mother of the child, or he can petition the local family court to award visitation on a particular calendar.

Child Support

Once a father has been legally designated as the child's father, he generally has to provide child support for the child. The provision of child support is more of a duty as opposed to a right; the right to child support basically runs to the child himself. While child support may be an issue amicably determined between the unwed father and mother, the issue may require judicial intervention; thus, a court of law may determine the amount of child support owed to the child, as well as a schedule for making the payment.

Other rights

Once a man has been legally declared the unwed father of the child, he has other parenting rights. For instance, the father has a role in decision-making regarding the child, from medical decision-making to educational decision-making issues. Essentially, the father has a right to share in the parenting of the child in all facets. Every decision must be made in the best interest of the child; failure of any parent to make decisions in such a manner is subject to judicial scrutiny.

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