I am on the birth certificate: why don’t I have custody rights?

29872098_SWe hear calls like this all the time.  A father calls indicating that he is on the birth certificate for a child that was born out-of-wedlock.   The mom for whatever reason will not let him see the child.    He indicates that he is on the birth certificate and cannot understand why she can keep the child from him.

This tale is a common one.  While lots is often made about the so-called dads that are not involved, most law firms get more calls from dads who are involved or want to be involved and don’t know how to do so.

May unmarried dads out there think the birth certificate gives them custody rights.  Or, if they are not on the birth certificate, and have a DNA test, they believe that this gives them custody rights.

While an acknowledgment on a birth certificate or a positive DNA test are a good thing for dads who want to be involved, they still need a custody order (called a parenting plan in many states) to have an enforceable right to custody.  A parenting plan denotes the specific custody schedule a parent has, including the days of the week and the times.  It sets forth the holiday schedule and summer schedule.  It explains whow has legal and physical custody.

Put another way, even if an unmarried dad is on a birth certificate, if you flip that birth certificate around it does not have a custody schedule on it.  It does not state that a father has this time on a holiday or that holiday.  At the end of the day, it’s a presumption or finding of paternity in most states.  But it doesn’t create an enforceable right to custody.  To obtain a parenting plan, an unmarried father really needs to file a paternity case in state court to obtain a parenting plan.  By doing so, they obtain a parenting plan just like a married father going through a divorce.

If you need help with a paternity case in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area in Missouri or Illinois, you can call us at 314-963-4700.

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