Unmarried couples, children out of wedlock and fathers' rights

Florida residents may find it interesting to learn that over 40 percent of children born in the U.S. are to unmarried couples. When it comes to child custody and visitation rights, generally unmarried fathers have to fight hard in the family court system to get a chance to see their children and be afforded the most basic parental rights.

In fact, recently a father who was not married to the mother at the time of the birth of his child was barred from being in the delivery room because the mother did not want him there. In this particular case, the couple was unmarried when they conceived a child together. The father took the mother of his to be child to court to get basic fathers' rights afforded to him before and after the birth of the child. For instance, the father requested that he be notified when the mother, his ex-fiancé, went into labor. Furthermore, he requested that he see the child after birth, sign the birth certificate, let the baby have his last name and sought a parenting time order for visitation rights with his child. The judge presiding over the case denied all the father's requests.

The court in this case ruled that allowing the unmarried father in the delivery room would violate the mother's privacy, having the father sign the child's birth certificate would violate the mother's rights if she did not give her consent and a parenting time visitation schedule prior the birth of a child was not appropriate since a child's best interest cannot be ascertained before birth.

Generally, when a married couple have a child, the husband is the presumptive father. In the case of an unmarried couple however, the father's paternity must be established for him to have legal grounds for parenting time, custody and the like. Even though marriage is not an indicator of whether an individual will be a good parent, under current law unmarried fathers' rights are limited. Therefore, unmarried fathers need to be particularly careful to protect their legal rights.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Another Blow to Fathers' Rights; Dad Barred From Delivery Room," Joseph Cordell, March 25, 2014

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