Becoming a father out of wedlock can be difficult, as it often means that the father does not have any parental rights. If a father wishes to establish parental rights, he must obtain an acknowledgment agreement from the mother or, if she is resistant, from the court. Obtaining such an agreement from the court requires DNA testing and a slew of other legalities. However, going through the complex legal process is well worth the time, money, and energy as it means that the father can claim parental rights, establish custody, and build a strong relationship with his child.
If you had a child with someone out of wedlock, you may want to know what you can do to establish parental rights and gain visitation or custody of your child. The first step you should take is to contact a leading fathers’ rights attorney, such as those at Cordell Cordell. Your lawyer can advise you on what documentation you need to prove paternity and what legal steps you can take to be awarded the custody you desire.
Developing a Child Custody Agreement
According to FindLaw, you can only establish a custody agreement AFTER you have established paternity via a court-ordered DNA test. If the results come back positive, your state may automatically grant you visitation or custody rights. However, every states’ procedures differ, so it is important that you discuss the next steps with your fathers’ rights attorney.
Whether or not visitation and custody are automatic, you are going to want to work out a fair agreement with your child’s mother and solidify the arrangement via a legally enforceable court order. Otherwise, the mother can assume all parental rights and bar you from making major decisions or worse, from seeing your child at all.
Ideally, you and your child’s mother will negotiate a fair parenting agreement without court intervention. The parenting agreement should include a wide variety of details, including but not limited to who gets custody on what days, how holidays and special events should be divided, details regarding vacations, and how major decisions regarding education, health care, and religion should be made.
Obtaining a Court Ordered Custody Agreement
If you and your child’s mother cannot agree on a custody arrangement, you may need to turn to the courts for help. The courts typically agree that a shared parenting arrangement is in the child’s best interests, but if one party can prove that the child might suffer harm or neglect in the other’s care, the court might overlook this standard and assign sole custody to one parent. Obtaining sole custody for an unmarried father is difficult and often requires the skill of an experienced fathers’ rights attorney such as those at Cordell and Cordell.
Bear in mind that how much custody and what type of rights you receive will all depend on your existing relationship with your child. For instance, if your child was just born and if you sought to establish custody early on his or her life, your chances of obtaining equal rights as the mother are high. However, if your child is older than two, and if you have been in and out of the picture for the majority of his or her life, you are likely to be awarded strictly visitation rights. If you have a history of drug, alcohol, or child abuse, that visitation may be supervised.
Obtain the Best Possible Results
Obtaining parental rights as an unmarried father is not likely to be easy. However, going through the legal process to establish rights is well worth the effort as it means you can be in your child’s life and build a strong bond with him or her without fear of the mother’s interference. To make the process a little easier on your, retain the help of a reputable fathers’ rights attorney.