Unwed father needs to establish paternity:

If you are an unwed father, there are some things you need to know and do as you prepare to take on your role as a father who is not married to his child’s mother.

In family law across the United States, if a married couple have a baby, the legal presumption is that the husband in that family is the father of the baby, but when a child is born outside of marriage, there is no legal presumption of paternity. Without establishing paternity, an unwed father has no legal standing as it relates to visitation, shared custody or the ability to make decisions about the welfare of the child.

The simplest way to establish paternity is to make sure that the unwed father’s name is on the baby’s birth certificate. Being with the mother at the hospital when the baby is born and helping her fill out the birth certificate forms.  If that is not possible, an unwed father can complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form in your state.  If the mother contests the father’s paternity, he can contact a government agency like the Child Support Enforcement Division in his state or he can petition a court to establish his paternity. The unwed father will need to take a paternity test (for which a court may order the mother’s cooperation) to establish his parental status.

In many states, legislation has created putative father registries where a man can acknowledge his paternity and then be notified of any legal proceedings concerning the child including proposals to change custody, to place the child for adoption or other such legal issues. If the father’s state has a registry, he should get on it immediately after he becomes aware of the mother’s pregnancy.

Once an unwed father establishes paternity, he needs to work to determine his custody status. A man who is legally designated as the father has the same custody rights as a married father. If the unwed father and mother are raising the child together in the same home, custody is not an issue. But if at any time they separate, or if they are not intending to raise the child together, the father will need to petition a court to establish custody rights.

Fathers are generally at a disadvantage in a custody process because government agencies and family court judges usually start with the presumption that a child should be with his or her mother unless her custody would be detrimental to the child. So fathers who want custody of the child need to retain a family law attorney and start the legal process to establish custody.  If you’re in this situation and needing a family law attorney, please come consult attorney Joanne Zhou at the Zhou Law Group for help.