According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of all U.S. children are born to parents who are not married to each other. This marks a significant increase in recent years as the percentage was 18.4% in 2007. Not being married to the other parent poses more problems for a father. In Minnesota, the mother’s rights are typically established when the child is born. Fathers, on the other hand, will have to take steps to establish paternity in many cases.
When a child is born and the parents are not married, there is no presumption of paternity in most courts. The father thus has no legal rights related to custody, visitation or decision making. The simplest way for a father to establish paternity is to make sure that his name is on the child’s birth certificate. If the mother contests paternity, a government agency or a lawyer could possibly help the father get a paternity test completed.
Once paternity is established, the legally designated father will get the same rights to custody as he would if he was married to the mother. If both parties are fit parents, the father may want to petition a family court for shared or joint custody. Alternatively, he may seek visitation and concede full custody to the mother. It’s a good idea for the parents to meet and develop a parenting plan together prior to the court’s determination.
Parents who have questions about child custody or support payments might want to schedule a consultation with a lawyer. An attorney with experience practicing family law might be able to help by examining the facts of the case and developing a strategy for the client to seek visitation or custody of a child. Furthermore, legal counsel could help the parties develop a parenting plan that a family court is likely to approve.