What are a father's legal rights?

As a father of a child who may not be married to the child's mother, you may wonder what your legal rights are and how to go about enforcing them. In general, biological parents have legal rights to custody and visitation of their children. While this is true, even if the parents are unmarried, the situation can sometimes get complicated quickly. As an unmarried father, it is important to understand your rights and how the family law court views child custody and visitation concerns.

In general, child custody and visitation is always determined by what is in the best interests of the child. When pursuing rights as a father, to begin with, it is important to establish paternity. Paternity can be established in different ways but usually is determined by a paternity test using DNA testing that the court can order. Either parent can initiate a paternity action to establish paternity with the help of a court order.

Once paternity has been legally established, the family law court can determine child custody and visitation rights by determining what is in the best interests of the child. It is important to follow the family law court's child custody order and helpful to be aware that options may be available if a parent wishes to change it. Once paternity has been established, child support obligations will also be determined.

Child custody issues and concerns can be complex and emotional for all parties involved which is why it is helpful to understand as much about fathers' rights as possible in advance. It is also important for fathers to understand their rights and how to pursue enforcement of those rights so that they can enjoy a relationship with their children that they seek.

Source: Family.findlaw.com, "Child Visitation, Child Custody and Unmarried Fathers," Accessed Aug. 22, 2017

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