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Why Do Unwed Fathers Have No Parental Rights?
The Law States: An unmarried woman who gives birth to a child has custody of the child automatically.
Rights of an Unmarried Father
If you are an unwed father, there are some things that you need to know in order to gain parental rights.
If you are an unmarried father, you will need to establish paternity to prove that you are in fact the father of the child. Without establishing paternity, an unwed father has no legal rights to a child in relation to child custody, visitation and other decision making.
Some rights of a parent:
• the right to decide who sees the child and for how long
• the right to enroll the child in school
• the right to get public benefits for the child
• the right to obtain medical treatment
• the right to restrict visitation
Unwed Fathers Will Need to Establish Paternity
The easiest way to establish paternity is to include the unwed father’s name on the baby’s birth certificate. When a child is born outside of a marriage – there is no legal presumption of paternity. If you are at the hospital with the mother when the baby is born and are able to help her fill out the birth certificate to include both of your names as mother and father, then paternity is established. In some case’s this may not be possible for a variety of reasons. In these cases, an unwed father can complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form in your state.
If the mother contests the father’s paternity, the father can petition a court to establish his right to paternity. The unwed father will need to take a paternity test to prove he is the father of the child.
Child Custody & Visitation Agreements
After paternity is confirmed, parents can begin negotiating a parenting agreement or parenting plan. A parenting agreement / plan will normally include details like which parent will have primary custody, specifics on the other parents visitation schedule, details on which parent will make decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, religion, and procedures for how potential changes to the arrangement will be handled.
The visitation rights of unmarried fathers will also depend on other factors like their relationship with the child, any drug or alcohol use, or any history of child of past child abuse, etc.
If both parties are unable to agree to a parenting agreement / plan the either parent may petition the court for child visitation or custody help. If the parents cannot agree on these arrangements, either one may ask the court to grant his or her request through a contested hearing.
Courts deciding on child custody and visitation issues will determine what is in the best interest of the child. Courts assume that most children will benefit from having both parents involved in their care. If one parent can show evidence that the other parent would likely cause harm to the child, then the courts will take this into consideration when making a decision.
To learn more about unmarried fathers’ custody rights contact an experienced family law attorney for help.
A Lawyer Can Help Protect the Rights of Unmarried Fathers
Each state has its own laws surrounding these issues. Unmarried fathers need to understand their parental rights. Contact a local attorney to understand your rights as it relates to children and unmarried fathers.
The Oregon DOJ/Child Support site has been redesigned to offer a better user experience, while retaining the information and resources our visitors rely on.
As with any transition, it may take a little extra time to find what you’re looking for. For your convenience, here are links to some important pages on the Child Support section of the new website.
If you have questions, please email [email protected]
Apply for Support
Why Establishing Paternity is Important
Establishing paternity is the term for determining the legal father of a child. If a father is not listed on the birth certificate, legal paternity must be established to:
- obtain a support order for the child.
- obtain an order for health care coverage or cash medical support.
- protect the child’s rights to benefits if the father dies, such as money or property left in a will, Veterans benefits, or Social Security benefits.
- allow the child access to the father’s family medical history.
How Paternity is Established
When parents are married to each other, paternity is automatically established by marriage. When parents are not married, paternity can be established by submitting paperwork, or through a court or administrative legal process.
When the father and mother agree that the child is his, paternity may be legally established by completing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity ». The form must be signed by both parents, notarized, and filed with Oregon Vital Records. Your local child support office can help complete this process.
If the mother wants to establish paternity for her child, she may fill out a Declaration in Support of Establishing Paternity (PDF) » | en Español (PDF) » with or without the father’s voluntary acknowledgment.
Mothers applying for public assistance can complete this form at their local Department of Human Services (DHS) » or child support office. DHS or the Oregon Child Support Program will be in contact after receiving the affidavit to discuss the next steps necessary for establishing paternity.
If the alleged father does not believe he is the biological parent, the Oregon Child Support Program will help with genetic testing to determine whether he is or not. These genetic tests are simple, accurate, and will determine if the man tested has the genetic markers required to be the biological father.
The Oregon Child Support Program can also assist men who wish to be declared the biological father of a child but need help establishing paternity.
For more information on establishing paternity, contact your local child support office.
Paternity Establishment Only
You can apply only to place a child’s biological father on the child’s birth certificate and not seek additional child support services.
Child Support Services
You can apply to set up a child support order in addition to establishing paternity.
To apply for paternity establishment or child support services, you will first establish an online account, and can then complete an application for services. Once you submit this application, a child support case manager will get in touch to help you through additional steps based on you and your family’s needs. See Establish a New Child Support Order for more information.
You can also take the application to your local child support office or mail it to:
Oregon Child Support Program
PO Box 14680
Salem, OR 97309
Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
Parents considering signing the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities. The video below explains their rights. They can also be found on the back of the Voluntary Acknowledgment form (Vea en Español).
Steps to Establishing Paternity
This process usually takes 30-120 days.
A parent applies for child support or paternity establishment-only services.
The Oregon Child Support Program contacts the parents to sign the appropriate paperwork.
This process takes 30-45 days, but can take longer if a parent must be located. Please see Locating a Parent for more information.
- If the alleged father agrees he is the biological father, parents may sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity ». Once this form is signed by both parents, notarized, and filed with Oregon Vital Records, paternity is legally established.
- If the parents are not in agreement that the alleged father is the biological father, a parent must complete and submit a Declaration in Support of Establishing Paternity (PDF) » | en Español (PDF) » to begin a legal process that usually includes genetic testing.
Once a Declaration of Support of Establishing Parentage is received, the Oregon Child Support Program attempts to establish paternity.
If the child is not receiving public assistance from the state of Oregon, the custodial parent may choose paternity-only services. The length of time for this step varies, because it may take repeated attempts to obtain the declaration and serve the proposed order.
Once served, the mother or alleged father may request genetic testing.
If neither party takes action within 30 days of being served, the order may be finalized. This means paternity is legally established for the child, and the father is provided with the same rights and responsibilities as if the child was born into a marriage. If genetic tests are requested, they will be scheduled as soon as possible, usually 15-45 days following the request.
The Oregon Child Support Program arranges genetic tests for the mother, alleged father, and the child.
These tests are more than 99% accurate, and the results are usually available within 15-30 days.
When a child is born to married parents, there is an automatic legal relationship between the child and the husband of the mother; and the father's name will appear on the birth certificate.
When a child is born to unmarried parents, there is no automatic legal relationship between the father and the child. The biological father's name will not be placed on the birth certificate without filling out an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP). This is called paternity establishment, and it establishes the biological father as the legal father.
How to Establish Paternity
1. Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
A mother and father can voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form any time before the child turns 18. Establishing paternity is easy and free. The process is available to parents if the mother was not married at the time of birth or if the biological father is someone other than the mother's current spouse.
Both parents must sign and have their signature witnessed and notarized by a Notary Public. No blood test is required. Birthing hospitals will provide information about and help completing the process before the mother and baby leave the hospital. AOP forms are also available through the Arkansas Department of Health, and any local Office of Child Support Enforcement.
If the mother was married to someone other than the biological father at the time of birth, an AOP can be completed by the mother, husband/ex-husband, and the biological father. If the AOP is completed at the time of birth, the biological father’s name will appear on the birth certificate.
If a birth certificate is filed with Vital Records without a father's name, and later the mother and the biological father want to complete the AOP, the parents can go to the Vital Records office and complete the AOP. The birth certificate will be amended showing the father's name. There is a space on the AOP that allows for the change of the child's last name.
Either parent may change their mind about signing the AOP by completing a form and filing it with the Office of Vital Records within 60 days from the date of the last notarized signature. Rescission forms are available at the Department of Health Vital Records Office.
2. Judicial Establishment of Paternity
Either parent may file a petition with the court to establish parentage of the child. The court will enter an order finding the man to be the father of the child and may address issues such as child support, custody and visitation. This process usually requires the help of an attorney.
If a mother applies for OCSE services for child support and paternity has not been established, the agency will take steps to establish paternity. If a putative father denies that he is the father, OCSE will give him an opportunity to agree to genetic testing and schedule the testing. If the putative father does not respond to OCSE’s attempts to contact or denies paternity and does not participate in testing, a complaint with be filed with the court to establish paternity and an order for child support. Genetic testing may be ordered by the court.
If genetic testing finds that a putative father is not the biological father, the mother may be responsible for the court cost and the cost of genetic testing. If the mother is receiving cash assistance, there are no fees charged. If genetic testing finds the putative father is the biological father, he may be responsible for court costs and the cost of genetic testing.
If paternity of a child has been established by court order or an AOP, you should consult with an attorney regarding your options. OCSE does not provide services related to disestablishment of paternity.
Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity
What if we agree to sign the form, but there is doubt who the father is?
If either parent is not sure, they should not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity form. A paternity test, which is sometimes referred to as a genetic test, is recommended. For more information about paternity, contact your local child support agency.
What will the genetic test show?
The genetic test will show if a man is NOT the biological father of a child. Or the test may show that it is almost certain, 99% or more, that a man is the father of the child.
If we sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity now, can we change our minds later?
Yes. Persons signing an AOP may change their minds and rescind their acknowledgment if done within 60 days. To do this, contact the Division of Vital Records at 1-800-637-9314 and request a rescission form. Complete the form and file it with the Division of Vital Records before any administrative or judicial proceedings take place, or within 60 days from the date the AOP is signed, whichever comes first. After 60 days, the only way to change the legal father of the child is to file a motion with the court. A motion must be based on a claim that the AOP was signed due to fraud (someone lied in signing the document), duress (you were forced to sign), or material mistake of fact (you thought one thing and another thing is true).
Will the father's name be on the baby's birth certificate?
If unmarried parents sign the AOP from at the hospital when the baby is born, the father's name will be shown on the baby's birth certificate. The parents must tell the hospital staff what name they want for their child. If the mother agrees, the baby can have the father's last name.
Do the parents have to be in Arkansas to acknowledge paternity?
No. If the child was born in Arkansas, the parents may sign the AOP form in front of a notary public and then mail it to the address on the cover of the form.
What about child support and government assistance?
Signing the AOP does not initiate child support or government assistance services. You must do this on your own. If child support services are needed, the custodial party can contact an attorney or apply to the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement where a copy of the AOP form will be on file. If government assistance is needed, such as TEA or Medicaid, the mother must cooperate with OCSE to establish paternity in order to qualify for benefits.
If we sign the AOP, does the father have the right to visit or ask for custody?
Signing the AOP does not automatically give the father the right to visitation or custody. The father may use the form to ask the court to establish these rights. If the parents are in agreement, either parent may ask the court for an order to establish their rights to visitation or custody. Parents should ask their attorney about the law.
What will it cost the parents?
There is no charge to the parents for signing the AOP. The Department of Vital Records charges a fee for amending (changing) a birth certificate.
While a person may assume that they have legal rights related to their child if they believe the child is theirs, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, only mothers have inherent parental rights; paternity, on the other hand, must often be established. To learn more about how to establish paternity and why doing so is important for both mothers and fathers, call the office of Lomurro Law today.
What Is Paternity And Why Does It Matter?
Paternity is the word for legal fatherhood. If a father does not establish paternity, then they have no legal rights related to their child. This means that the father cannot seek custody of or visitation with their child.
Paternity is also important for the mother and a child, too. If paternity is not established, then a mother will have no legal grounds on which to seek child support or benefits for the child off of the father’s record, such as healthcare benefits. Additionally, a child has a right to know who their father is and may suffer undue psychological and emotional harm if they do not.
How To Establish Paternity In New Jersey
When parents are married at the time of a child’s birth, the father is assumed to be the child’s legal father and paternity is automatically established. If the parents are not married, though, paternity must be established. At the time the baby is born, parents will need to complete a certificate of parentage and both sign it. The certificate can also be completed at a later date.
There are some situations in which the mother and alleged father disagree about who a child’s legal father is. If this is the case, a paternity case may need to be brought to the court, which can order genetic testing. Following DNA testing, paternity can be established by a court order.
What Happens If The Married Spouse Is Not The Father?
There are some cases where the man to whom the mother is married at the time of her child’s birth is not the biological parent. The married partner will automatically be assumed to be the child’s father and will have their name added to the birth certificate unless the couple fills out an AOD – an Affidavit of Denial of Paternity. After the AOD is signed, the biological parents can fill out the certificate of parentage form discussed above.
How Our Experienced Monmouth County Family Law Attorneys Can Help
At the law office of Lomurro Law , we know that the issue of paternity can be a tricky one. We can help you navigate the process of establishing paternity or bringing forth a paternity action in court. To learn more about the process and how we can help, as well as to get answers to any questions that you have, please call our law firm directly today. We can also help you with a variety of other family law matters.
When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the biological father is not considered the child’s legal parent unless the father has signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” (usually done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth) declaring himself to be the child’s father, or an “order of filiation” has been entered, which is a court order that declares that person to be the legal father. A petition may be filed in Family Court seeking an order of filiation.
Why Is it Is Necessary to Have an Order of Filiation Made?
If a man was not married to the mother of the child, he has no obligation to pay support for the child, and has no legal right to custody or visitation with the child, unless he is legally named the father of the child, through an order of filiation or an acknowledgment of paternity.
Who May File a Paternity Petition?
The petition may be filed by the child’s mother, by a man who believes he is the father of the child, by the child or by the child’s guardian. If the child is receiving public assistance, the Department of Social Services may file a petition against the alleged father, seeking an order of filiation and an order of support. In some cases, a paternity petition may be filed even if the alleged father has died.
The petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered to) the respondent.
There are no filing fees in Family Court.
If you are the mother or a man who believes he is the father, you can use the free and easy DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program to ask the Family Court to name the child’s legal father.
If you are not the child’s parents, you can use this form to start your Paternity case.
What If the Mother was Married to Someone Else?
If the mother was married at the time the child was conceived or born, her husband is considered to be the legal father of the child, even though he might not be the biological father, unless a court decides that he is not the father. A copy of the paternity petition must be served upon the husband to notify him about the court case. After he is served, a judge may make a ruling concerning his relationship to the child. If the judge decides that the husband is not the father, the paternity case against the other alleged father may continue.
What Documents must be Brought to Court?
The petitioner should present a copy of the child’s birth certificate.
Do the Parties Need Lawyers?
The parties may represent themselves or may hire lawyers. A respondent who cannot afford to hire a lawyer has the right to have a lawyer assigned at no cost.
What Happens at the Hearing?
Initially, the parties appear before a Support Magistrate. If the mother was not married when the child was conceived or born, and the respondent admits that he is the father, the hearing examiner enters an order of filiation. If the respondent denies that he is the father, the Support Magistrate will order blood or DNA tests of both parties and the child and adjourn the case to another date. The parties are given an appointment date for the laboratory tests.
When the parties return to court, the test results are explained by the court. The blood or DNA tests may exclude the man as the biological father, or may show how probable it is that he is the father. If the respondent admits paternity, an order of filiation is entered. If the parties cannot agree on paternity, the matter is then scheduled for a hearing. Both parties may testify and present witnesses and the blood or DNA test results may be offered in evidence. If the petitioner presents sufficient proof, the court will enter an order of filiation; if not, the petition will be dismissed.
After paternity has been decided, if the custodial parent seeks an order of child support, or is receiving public assistance for the child, the Magistrate will conduct a support hearing.
There is an informative twenty minute video which, in a step by step manner, will take you through the process of a paternity or child support proceeding in the New York State Family Court. You will learn what documents are necessary and what to expect in the court room.
Hospitals, midwives, birth clinics, health departments, physicians, and other organizations form the back-bone of Washington State’s Parentage and Paternity Program. Your efforts have made Washington State’s program an outstanding success and a model for the nation. This guide provides you with the information you need to comply with federal and state laws and meet the needs of parents who desire to sign an acknowledgment. We sincerely appreciate your efforts!
Most parents sign the acknowledgment form at a birthing hospital, a birthing clinic, or at home under the care of a midwife shortly after the child is born. A hospital, midwife, or birthing clinic staff person will help you complete the form if necessary, answer questions, and submit the paperwork to DOH. Most hospitals, midwives, and birthing clinics can also notarize the form for you. If you sign within five days of your child’s birth, you will not need to pay a fee to file the acknowledgment form. If you do not sign at the hospital, you may obtain the Acknowledgment of Parentage form at your local county health department or any Division of Child Support (DCS) office. If you sign at a DCS office, DCS will send the form for filing and pay the filing fee. You may also call DCS at 800-442-KIDS (5437) to have a form and informational booklet mailed to you at no charge.
Establishing parentage creates a legal relationship between a child and the child’s parent when no legal relationship previously existed. Actions to establish a legal relationship between a child and the child’s father are informally referred to as paternity actions. Parentage must be established before a parent’s name can be placed on a child’s birth certificate.
If a mother is married at the time the child is conceived or born, Minnesota law automatically recognizes the mother and her spouse (male or female) as the legal parents of the child.
If a mother is not married at the time the child is conceived or born, Minnesota law automatically recognizes only the mother as the legal parent of the child.
Steps can be taken to legally establish the child’s father. This is called establishing parentage.
- When a child is born to a mother who is married, the mother’s spouse (male or female) is presumed the legal parent of the child and will appear on the child’s birth certificate.
- If the mother’s spouse is not the child’s biological father and does not want to be the legal parent, the mother, her spouse and the biological father can sign the Recognition of Parentage and the Spouse’s Non-parentage Statement. When these documents are filed with the Minnesota Department of Health, the biological father will also become the legal father of the child.
Paternity can be established without a child support, custody or parenting time order.
A mother may want to establish parentage so that she can:
- Request child support from the father
- Receive benefits for the child on behalf of the father, such as Social Security benefits or insurance.
The father may want to establish parentage so that he can:
- Be listed as the father on a child’s birth certificate and be recognized as the child’s legal father
- Seek custody or parenting time with a child
- Add the child to his medical or dental insurance.
The following web pages address various topics and specific situations related to establishing paternity.
- Advantages and disadvantages of signing the Recognition of Parentage
- Undoing a Recognition of Parentage
- The Establishing Parentage – What Every Mother and Father Need to Know video explains your rights and responsibilities before signing the Recognition of Parentage form.
- Spouse’s Non-parentage Statement
- Undoing a Spouse’s Non-parentage Statement
- Naming your child
- Living arrangements for your child
- Parenting time
- Decisions about how your child is raised
- What to do if your child may be adopted
The brochure Being a Legal Father: Parentage information for mothers and fathers (PDF) also answers questions about establishing paternity for unmarried parents.
50% of children born in South Carolina are born to unmarried parents.
When a child is born out-of-wedlock in South Carolina, the biological father has no legal rights or connection to the child until he establishes legal paternity.
When a child is born within marriage, the male spouse of the mother is automatically designated as having legal paternity whether or not he is the biological father. If the couple is unmarried or the biological father is someone other than the mother’s spouse, the biological father must complete the defined process to establish legal paternity.
Legal visitation rights cannot be established without first establishing legal paternity. Often a biological father forms a personal relationship with his child without legal paternity or legal visitation rights. That relationship, however, may depend solely on the discretion of the mother. If the mother decides to stop the father’s visits, the biological father who has not established both legal paternity and legal visitation rights has no legal recourse.
Legal Paternity Actions
If the couple is unmarried or if the biological father is someone other than the mother’s spouse, the biological father must take specific actions to establish legal paternity.
Establishing Paternity Helps Children
When fathers establish paternity, they benefit their children in many ways.