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Who Has Custody If the Parents Aren’t Married?

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If the parents of a child weren’t married, the mother automatically has full custody until otherwise established with the courts. The father of the child will have no legal custody or visitation rights until he establishes legal paternity and files for custody through the family courts. This is important to understand to avoid acting in a way that could damage your custody case later on.

If you aren’t married to your child’s other parent and you have questions about your parental rights or what to expect from a custody hearing, we can help. Our law firm has experienced family law attorneys who are familiar with these types of cases and can help you fight for your children.

Does Signing the Birth Certificate Give Me Paternal Rights?

Signing the birth certificate does not automatically grant an unmarried father parental rights. While it can help show that the mother at one point recognized that you were the biological father of the child, a father’s parental rights have to be established through the courts if he was not married to the mother of the child at the time of the birth.

How Do I Get Custody and Visitation Rights?

To get custody and visitation rights to your child, you will need to file a petition in the family law courts. The petition should outline that you are the proven biological father of the child, that you want to establish and nurture a relationship with the child, and that having a relationship with you is in the child’s best interests. If the mother disagrees and is not willing to come to a compromise on custody and visitation, the matter will go before a judge who will make the final decision and establish the court orders.

How Do the Courts Establish Paternity?

To establish legal paternity, the father will need to sign a voluntary declaration of paternity or complete a paternity test. If the mother refuses to cooperate, the father may have to petition the courts to order a paternity test and enforce that order to ensure that the child can be tested to determine paternity. Once paternity has been legally established, the father has the basis to file for custody and/or visitation rights through the family courts.

If you are fighting for custody of your children and you weren’t married to the other parent, it’s important to have an attorney by your side who understands what it takes to navigate these types of cases through the courts. Call our law office at 931-236-2711 to get started.

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