Parents have the legal right to decide for their children and the legal responsibility to care for and provide for them. Unfortunately, unwed parents may not have the same rights and responsibilities.
Specifically, fathers of children born out of wedlock do not have legal rights to custody and visitation nor have the legal responsibility to provide support. The only way they can acquire these rights and duties is by establishing their paternity.
Confirming the legality of the parent-child relationship
Under the law, the mother is the child’s only legal parent if the parents are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth and the father did not sign the child’s birth certificate. Hence, even if a child’s father introduces himself as their parent, the law does not acknowledge the parent-child relationship.
Acquiring rights to seek custody and visitation
If a father does not establish his paternity, he cannot petition the court for child custody or visitation rights since technically, he does not have a legal relationship with the child.
Obtaining rights to demand support
The child’s mother cannot demand support from the father without established paternity since, under the law, he has no father’s rights and responsibilities.
Accordingly, by completing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form or seeking an Administrative Paternity Order from child support services or an Order of Paternity from the court, the father acquires rights to seek child custody or visitation time and the mother obtains the right to demand child support.
The same goal in mind
Many unmarried parents establish paternity with the goal of protecting their children’s physical, emotional and financial security and well-being.
If you are considering establishing paternity over your child, it may be best to make use of available resources and consult a competent legal firm so you can carefully explore different options.