An increasing number of unmarried dads and cohabiting couples are becoming more common in today’s society. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unwed women contribute to about 40% of the total birth rate in the United States. Additionally, the percentage of unmarried fathers has doubled over the last 50 years, with unwed fathers living with their children at 29%, from 12% recorded in 1968.
Whether purposefully or accidentally, there are a few aspects you should be aware of as you prepare to assume your new role as a father.
Obtaining proof of paternity
Every state in the United States recognizes that if a married couple has a child, the husband will be presumed to be the child’s father under family law. However, if a baby is born outside marriage, fatherhood is not legally presumed. Without proof of paternity, an unmarried father will have no legal rights regarding visitation, joint parenting, or power for decision-making on the child’s welfare.
The most straightforward method of establishing legitimacy is to ensure that the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate. The simplest way to do this is to accompany the mother to the hospital by the time of labor. Assist her in filling out the birth certificate documents when the baby is delivered or declaring and signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.
If the mother challenges the dad’s paternity, he may consult with a government agency or file a case to have his paternity established by a judge. Proving their paternal status requires unmarried fathers to submit samples for a DNA test. A judge may mandate the mother’s participation.
As soon as the father learns about the pregnancy and registers with the appropriate state’s paternity database, he is considered a legally recognized father.
Seeking custodial rights for your child
After establishing paternity, the father must decide on his parenting rights. Note that unmarried fathers have the same rights to custody as married fathers.
Unless a couple is unmarried but is parenting their kid in the same house, there is no problem with guardianship. The father, however, will have to request a court to secure their parental rights if and when they split or decide that they do not want to raise the kid together anymore.
Though each state has its set of rules governing custody arrangements, the court will usually grant custodial rights based on the baby’s best interests. Except in circumstances when the mother is found unfit to care for her baby, the judge will usually decide to her advantage in the vast majority of instances. Thus, dads who seek parental rights must hire the services of an experienced custody lawyer and begin the legal procedure to establish parental rights and responsibility.
For a court to decide legal guardianship of the child, each parent should collaborate to develop a parenting strategy that clearly outlines duties and obligations for the child. When this is accomplished peacefully, the court will more likely support the plan that they have devised.
Knowing your child support duties
Fathers are responsible for their children’s financial well-being, regardless of whether they have legal rights or otherwise. Typically, unofficial financial assistance occurs when an unmarried couple agrees to raise their child under one roof. However, when parents divorce or cohabiting parents decide to split, child support becomes a legally binding obligation that fathers must fulfill.
Child support is decided by considering a range of factors, including the parents’ median incomes and commitments separately, the possibility of additional monetary assistance, and the child’s needs. Of course, each of these cases is unique for every situation; thus, the amount of child support required is decided individually.
As soon as the courts determine that child support is necessary, it becomes a primary financial responsibility that government authorities may impose. In some cases, failure to pay child support can even result in incarceration. Thus, regardless of whether the father receives assistance or updates from the mother on crucial topics, child support responsibilities continue to exist.
Fathers’ parental rights have constantly been attached to their marital status with the baby’s mother. With the rise of unwed fathers in our society, rights and obligations need to be established for the sake of both parents and the child’s welfare. However, the failure to create such rights and fulfill these responsibilities becomes more complex, given the lack of formal union between the parents. In general, no matter what circumstances or standing you are in, fathers should make the necessary efforts to protect their parental rights and fulfill their parenting responsibilities.