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What options do unmarried fathers have?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2021 | Custody

When it comes to a divorced couple in Pennsylvania, each parent’s roles and rights are usually clear, and thus, either party can provide documentation in the event of a dispute. However, it can be difficult for a father to understand his rights and duties when he isn’t married to the child’s mother.

Presumption of paternity

When a child is born to a married couple, the state in which that child was born will declare, under legal presumption, that the husband is the child’s father. However, when an unwed couple has a baby, legal presumption of paternity is not granted to the “father”. In fact, the person who claims to be the father will usually have no rights in terms of visitation rights, shared custody or anything to do with child custody in general.

How to establish paternity

If you are not present at the child’s birth, it can be extremely difficult to legally be declared the father. Fortunately, there are two ways you can establish paternity. The first one involves being there at the time of your child’s birth. This will allow you to help sign the birth certificate, listing you as the legal father. The second method includes obtaining and signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. However, the mother can contest the father’s paternity claim, and a DNA test would likely be the next step.

Obtaining custody rights

Understandably, many unwed men may want to obtain custody rights after it’s proven that they are the actual fathers. The good news is that once that information is confirmed, the individual now has all the rights of a married father. However, if the father does not intend to raise the child with the mother, he must petition the court, and thus, a child custody hearing begins.

If you are an unwed father and want to gain joint or sole custody of your child, then bringing in an attorney is advisable. A lawyer may provide you with the best legal options for your particular situation.