The structure of the typical American family has changed vastly over the last few decades. It is no longer uncommon or even particularly taboo to have a child outside of wedlock. Many couples with a stable and solid relationship choose to have a family even though they are not married. That said, there are many times that a relationship is more tenuous or maybe even disintegrates completely after the mother is pregnant. If you are an unwed father-to-be, there are certain steps you may want to consider now and in the future to protect your rights.
Staying in contact with the mother can be one of the easiest ways to protect your rights. Providing her with emotional and even financial support during the pregnancy can demonstrate to the court your willingness to take the necessary steps to act as a parent. Note, however, that a mother is not required to keep you notified of her medical appointments and she is not required to allow you access to the birthing process.
One of the key elements to understand is that as an unwed father, you do not have any presumption of paternity. If you are married to the mother of the child, you are presumed to be the child’s father, but an unwed father enjoys no such presumption. This means that you will need to establish paternity. This is typically done through genetic testing. One of the common questions is whether a father can require the mother to submit to genetic testing before the baby has been born. The answer to that is, quite simply, “no.” That said, once the baby is born, you can and should bring an action to establish paternity. Acting quickly to establish paternity will help you protect your rights. Establishing paternity will allow you to request visitation or even custody. The longer you wait to establish paternity and a visitation schedule, the harder it could eventually become for you to ask for substantial time with the child.
Another very important step to protect your rights as an unwed father is to list your name on the putative father registry. The purpose of the registry is to protect your rights as an unwed father in case the mother of the child places the child for adoption without your knowledge or consent. Including your name on the registry will require you to be notified of a pending adoption proceeding. You can then respond to the adoption action and demonstrate that you want to exercise your rights as a father.
We have extensive experience helping our clients understand their rights as a parent. Call us today at (320) 299-4249 to talk about your family.