Important Issues For Unmarried Fathers
More often these days men find themselves in the position of being a father without being married to the child's mother. This may not seem like a big deal on the surface, especially if the mother and father are on good terms, but there are potential risks to a father's access to his child if steps are not taken to secure his legal rights.
Should the mother decide to move away, leave the father out of important decisions about the child's care, or even completely deny him access to the child, there may be very little he can do about it. The truth is, even if the father has taken a very active role in the child's life, without some legal record of his existence as the father, he has no enforceable parenting rights under the law to fall back on should he have a disagreement with the mother.
A more simple alternative to an expensive paternity suit can be found in the Acknowledgement of Parentage Act which was passed in 1996. This Act contains a law that allows the father of a child born out of wedlock to simply agree in writing with the child's mother that he is the father. This is accomplished with a form called an "Affidavit of Parentage" and can be done at any point during the child's life. The affidavit creates a presumption of paternity that can then be used to acquire a share of legal custody.
Here are some important steps to consider:
- Is there certainty about the identity of the father? If the answer is yes, he should sign the affidavit with the mother. If she refuses, he will need to sue for paternity determination.
- Is the identity of the father uncertain? If this is the case, he should not sign the affidavit as the presumption it creates can be difficult to contest later.
- Once paternity is establshed, he should file a complaint for custody. This is the only way to create enforceable rights for involvement in the child's life.
It is important to reiterate that the affidavit creates only a presumption that the man signing the document is the father. Until custody is sought through Court, not only does the father have no enforceable rights, but the mother has sole custody until a court determination otherwise. If you find that you are in a situation like this, you will need to speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. Call ADAM now at (248) 327-0050, or submit our contact form on the Home page of this website.