National statistics show that approximately forty-percent of children are born out-of-wedlock. For many unmarried fathers, they are not sure what action to take if the relationship with the mother breaks off.
Some unmarried fathers end up marrying the mother. Others may end up in a committed relationship with the mother. In other cases, the relationship might not last. It might not last through the pregnancy in some cases. It might be a situation where the relationship breaks up after the baby is born. It could be that the mother and father were never in a committed relationship when the mother got pregnant.
No matter the circumstances, there are many cases where the unmarried father wants desperately to be in the life of their child. They want parenting time and/or custody rights. They want to be able to share in the decision-making for matters involving their child.
What action should they take? Every case is different and the laws in each state can vary. However, in a general sense, it is usually important for an unmarried father to take quick action to secure their custody and/or parenting rights.
This usually means filing a case under the Uniform Parentage Act (which is generally referred to as a “paternity” case). In a paternity case, an unmarried father can seek to prove their biological relation to the child, obtain custody and/or parenting time, and to ensure that the child is taken care of financially.
By taking this action, an unmarried father can essentially end up in the same legal position as a father who went through a divorce. There are also several other advantages to acting quickly for fathers out there:
1.) By acting quickly to secure your custody rights, you do not risk losing valuable time with your children as they grow up. The reality is without a custody or parenting schedule, you do not have enforceable visitation rights and could be denied time with your children.
2.) By acting quickly to secure your custody rights, you send a message to the court that you are a father who cares and wants to be involved. On the other hand, if you wait, and only act to seek custody and/or visitation rights until after the mother pursues child support, the opposite message may regrettably be sent that you are only seeking custody and/or parenting time in retaliation.
3.) By acting quickly to secure your custody rights, you can help ensure that your child is not put up for adoption. There are reported instances where the mother ultimately decides to put a baby up for adoption. When a father has not acted to secure their rights, or registered on the putative father registry and is not on the birth certificate, they often can do very little to stop it. They might not even know that an adoption proceeding has begun or is taking place.
4.) Even if you do not end up as the parent with a majority of the custody and/or parenting time, you are better to act quickly and have a child support order established. This ensures that you are paying along the way and that you do not end up with substantial child support arrears. There are numerous cases out there with a father who ends up with a back child support obligation that seems insurmountable.
To the married fathers who want to be involved in the life of your children, the reality is you should act quickly to secure your custody and/or parenting time rights. Even if you are in a committed relationship with the mother, you may be better to secure a consent order and judgment that indicates what will happen with custody and/or visitation if your relationship were to ever end versus trying to do so after a breakup.
If you are an unmarried father and need legal representation for custody and support, you can contact Stange Law Firm, PC at 1-855-805-0595.