Surprisingly, fathers who never married their kids’ mothers don’t have any parental right unless they claim their children. Many people live in a committed relationship without getting married, while some fathers become parents by accident because they forgot to wear protection or other birth control efforts failed. Do you have Father’s Rights?

Father's rights and paternity

There’s a growing trend in relationships to forego formal marriage and live together in a committed relationship. Stats show that 40 percent of all U.S. births now happen to unmarried women.

How to Establish Paternity and Father’s Rights

Establishing paternity has become much easier because of DNA tests, and you must do so if you want to be recognized as a child’s father. Even if you don’t want to bear the extra responsibility, the child’s mother could force you to take a paternity test based on her testimony that you are indeed the father of her child.

The simplest way to establish paternity is to include the father’s name in the official birth certificate. If a married couple has a child, the husband is presumed to be the father, but there is no such presumption of paternity with unmarried couples. Until an unwed father proves his paternity, he has none of fatherhood’s legal rights and obligations.

How Much do Paternity Test Cost

That can change quickly if the mother seeks child support. The paternity court will order the likely father to take a paternity test, but you don’t have to wait on test results to lay the groundwork for acknowledging your child. During childbirth, an unwed father can ask to fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.

If the mother contests the paternity, the father can contact the Child Support Enforcement division in his home state or ask a court to establish paternity. Courts have the right to force the mother into cooperation, and if the test comes back positive, the father gains all the legal father’s rights — and obligations — of fatherhood.

young girls laying in a small chair, sad. Father's Rights and paternity

A Father’s Rights and Responsibilities

Once a father proves his paternity, there are many decisions to be made. These include addressing the following situations:

  • Deciding on the custody of the child
  • Setting financial support for the child’s security and wellbeing
  • Petitioning the court for custody or visitation if parents don’t want to live together
  • Developing a civil relationship with the child’s mother
  • Participating in the child’s life as actively as possible
  • Working equally hard to discipline and reward the child.

Making Your Case for Strong Fatherhood

Once you have proven your paternity, you can stay active in the child’s life as any father. Unmarried fathers don’t have any rights until paternity is established. The law recognizes unwed mothers as the child’s sole guardian, and physical custody usually follows.

You can work on becoming a strong father despite resistance from the mother or her relatives. That means remembering birthdays, participating in school activities, supporting the child financially, and disciplining the child when necessary.

Parents should try to make major decisions together. Although you might fight with the child’s mother or disagree on some parenting strategies, shared parenting is the best method of raising a child. Your child shouldn’t have to suffer because you two can’t get along.

Demanding the Rights of Fatherhood

You have the right to seek visitation, joint legal custody, and input into major decisions about education, religion, and extracurricular activities. When both parents share the decision-making process, it provides a stable anchor for the child.

You don’t have to surrender your rights just because it took you some time to establish your paternity. Legally, unwed parents who share parenting duties are treated the same way as married parents when disputes arise.