When a father is not married to his child's mother, it can cause some issues when seeking custody. To begin with, he will need to prove paternity. Once he does that, he can ask for custody rights, but it will be up to the court to determine the amount of custody or visitation that is acceptable. Men who go through this may end up having to pay support, which is an obligation and responsibility to the child.
As an unwed father, you may have many questions about this process and how to make sure you get enough time with your child. Here's more on what you need to know.
1. You may have to petition the court for a DNA test
If you are not able to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or don't know if a child is yours, then you will want to pursue a DNA test. Sometimes, mothers don't want to agree to these tests. If that's the case for you, you can ask a judge to issue a court order for the test, so you can establish if you are the father of the child.
2. If you are established as the father, you get the same rights as a married man
Once you're established as the biological father of your child, you should be given the same rights as a married father who wants to seek custody. You can ask for visitation rights, seek full custody if you believe your child's mother is unfit or look into other options.
3. Once paternity is established, you may need to pay child support
Depending on the situation, you may be asked to pay child support once paternity is established. For example, if you and your child's mother are not living together, she might ask for support. On the other hand, if you are both raising your child together, then the exchange of support may happen in a less formal way.
Being an unwed father sometimes has additional challenges compared to men who have children while married, but that doesn't mean that you don't deserve time with your child or to be given the same rights as any other biological parent. Your attorney will help you seek a DNA test if it's needed. That way, you can establish that you are the father of the child and go on to request the visitation or custody rights that you deserve.