The Unmarried Father: Child Custody and Visitation Rights

Little girl holding an adult's handA biological father has the legal right to request for child custody or visitation rights. This applies even if you’re not married to the child’s mother. As with all child custody cases, courts would consider the child’s best interest to resolve contested custody or visitation cases. And unless there’s evidence to support otherwise, courts would presume that the child would benefit from both parent’s involvement.

Paternity Issues

If there’s no issue about paternity, you and the mother just need to sign and file the acknowledgment of paternity during or after the birth of your child. On the other hand, if your paternity is contested, you’ll have to undergo a DNA test to confirm that you are really the child’s biological father.

Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements

Many parents try to negotiate a parenting plan or agreement to address custody and visitation issues. This agreement typically includes specific details as to who gets primary custody of the child, as well as the visitation schedule. It also provide details on who can make decisions about the child’s healthcare, education, and religion, explains a family law attorney in Denver, CO. The agreement also includes agreed-upon procedures for managing future changes to the parenting agreement.

In the event that you and the mother are estranged or hostile towards one another, one of you could request the court to order a contested hearing. During the hearing, you and the mother will have the chance to plead your case. With the court’s help, you will determine the best custody and visitation schedule that would be fair for both of you. That is unless the court deems that giving custody and visitation rights might harm the child.

More Crucial Things to Keep in Mind

While it might seem unfair, it’s rare for an unmarried father to gain sole child custody if the mother is already raising the child. In order for you to get sole custody, you would have to demonstrate that the mother isn’t fit to care for your child and/or that you’ve been the primary caregiver of your child all along. Nevertheless, shared custody and visitation rights would still allow you to have a relationship with your child.

State laws regarding child custody and visitation, as well as unmarried fathers’ rights, differ greatly. While you have parental rights, being aware of the limitations and boundaries is important to your case. Get a family lawyer with ample experience in cases like yours and knowledge of relevant laws in your state.