As cohabitation continues to become more common in the United States, there are more and more unmarried fathers. Many of these fathers want to ensure that they have the legal right to see their child and to have a strong relationship with them. This may not be the “traditional” way for them to start a family, but they’re still very interested in being involved.
The process of seeking and maintaining parental rights is relatively unique, depending upon the circumstances of each individual’s situation. However, these questions that unmarried fathers often have, along with information to guide them as they work to define this relationship with their children, can be helpful generally as someone is starting to explore their legal rights and options.
Are fathers ever presumed?
If a man and a woman are married at the time that a child is born, it will generally be presumed that that man is the child’s legal father. He will go to the hospital with his wife and sign the documents when the child is born. It could also be presumed that that man is the legal father if the couple gets divorced and the child is born no more than 300 days after that divorce is finalized.
Are DNA tests accurate?
If the man isn’t presumed to be the child’s father, perhaps because the parents were never married, then the court may have to order that a DNA test be carried out to officially establish paternity. The good news is that modern DNA tests are almost 100% accurate. Fathers who take this route can rest assured that their paternity will be proven by accurate testing done by qualified professionals. Home tests and things of this nature cannot be used.
What rights and obligations might fathers have?
Once someone has been established as a father, their rights and obligations are going to change significantly. For instance, they may have a right to custody so that the child lives with them or at least spends parenting time with them. They may also be obligated to pay child support. Establishing paternity is the first step in determining exactly what this relationship is going to look like. This is why it is so important for unmarried fathers to know exactly what legal steps to take in order to verify their parental status. Seeking legal guidance is often a good first step forward.