Did you know that signing the birth certificate isn’t enough to give an unmarried father parental rights? Did you know that if an unmarried couple lives and parents together, the father still has no enforceable legal rights to the child? Did you know that once the couple separates, child support is due but not automatically ordered?
Paternity actions are vital tools for unmarried parents. For fathers they establish legally enforceable custody rights to the child. For mothers, they set up a child support award. If a father has signed the birth certificate the law presumes he is the father, but he is not entitled to parental rights until a judge enters an order establishing him as the legal father and sets a parenting schedule. Many fathers simply “take what they can get” and see their child on the schedule the mother dictates. The more time passes where a father sporadically sees his child, the harder it is to maintain a relationship with the child and the harder it is to get expanded time in court.
In a paternity action, it’s vital to have an experienced family law attorney. Some judges award equal time to fathers; some will give the mother more than 80% of the parenting time as “standard visitation.”