What are Your Rights as a Non-Biological Father?

Child hugging father

Some non-biological fathers, including stepfathers, long-term partners, and same-sex partners, develop deep and loving relationships with their non-biological children. In some instances, a father might believe that a child is really his biological offspring, only to find out later on that he’s not. Fortunately for these men, plenty of states have granted non-biological fathers visitation and parental rights.

What if You’re the Legal Father?

Non-biological fathers could be considered legal fathers under specific circumstances, which means that they have the same parental rights as biological fathers. You might be considered the legal father if you signed your name as the father on the child’s birth certificate, your child was born when you were married to the mother, and you’ve legally adopted the child, explains a family attorney in Santa Fe, NM.

If you were the legal father, child support and custody orders would be awarded according to various factors that focus on the best interests of your child. If your state grants parental rights, you need to clearly demonstrate your solid relationship as a father and child. If your state doesn’t grant parental rights, you would still qualify for visitation. Likewise, some states acknowledge that a child could have multiple legal parents.

Additionally, you might be considered a de facto parent if you have consistently lived in the same home as the child, accepted and performed your parental duties, have an emotional and solid relationship with the child, and if the child’s biological parent is supportive of your relationship with her or his child. As a de facto parent, you could be granted parental rights, depending on state laws.

What if You’re Not the Legal Father?

Unfortunately, if you’re not considered as the legal father of your child, things get more difficult. Some states might consider giving you visitation and custody rights, while others might not award you any rights even if you could show that doing so would be in the best interest of the child. Bearing this in mind, you need an experienced family lawyer on your side that would make a compelling case on your behalf.