What Rights Does An Unmarried Father Have?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

<p>State laws govern the rights enjoyed by unmarried fathers, so the extent or limitation of those rights may vary dramatically from state to state. Generally, unmarried fathers do not have the same rights as married couples or unwed mothers. Legal challenges by unmarried fathers seeking to increase their rights have resulted in decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing their constitutional right to notice if the child they fathered is placed for adoption.</p>
<p>The Plight of the Putative Father</p>
<p>Laws in almost 50 percent of the states create a presumption of legitimacy. A man is presumed to be the father when a child is born under the following circumstances:</p>
<ul>
<li>When a child is born to a married couple</li>
<li>When the father and the mother of the child agree to have him listed as the father on the child's birth certificate</li>
<li>When the man acknowledges paternity of the child in a formal, written statement</li>
<li>When a court issues a paternity order</li>
</ul>
<p>Until an unmarried man meets the requirements of his state for establishing paternity, he is not entitled to any of the rights afforded to a father. Once paternity is established, a man has certain rights relating to custody, visitation, child support and parenting decisions.</p>
<p>Child Custody and Visitation</p>
<p>Once paternity is established, an unmarried man has the right to petition a court for custody of the child. Some states, such as Ohio, have moved away from traditional custody and visitation orders in which one parent is given custody while the other parent has visitation rights.</p>
<p>Ohio and some other states divide parenting time between the father and mother of the child in an effort to keep both parents involved in making parenting decisions. All decisions by a court regarding custody, shared parenting or visitation are always based upon the best interest of the child.</p>
<p>Child Support</p>
<p>Parents are responsible for the support of a child until the child reaches the age designated by the law in each state. New York, for instance, makes parents responsible for the support of their unemancipated children who are under 21 years of age. An unmarried father who has admitted paternity or had paternity established under the laws of his state is responsible for the support of his child.</p>
<p>Rights Related to Making Decisions</p>
<p>An unmarried father who is established to be the legal parent of a child has the right to participate in making decisions related to medical treatment, education, religion and other decisions usually associated with parenting. A court order may be obtained to enforce these rights.</p>

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