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Rights of a father when he's not married

31276729_S.jpgThere are many situations where unmarried fathers in Maryland are in committed, unmarried relationships with the mother of their children. However, there are just as many instances of children growing up without a father in the home. In fact, 40% of children today are born to unmarried parents, and many unmarried dads are unaware of their legal rights.

For an unmarried father, there is no legal assumption of paternity when a child is born. A simple way for a dad to be eligible for visitation rights, shared custody and the ability to have a say in child's upbringing and welfare is to have his name included on the birth certificate. If this doesn't happen, another option is for a father to fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form after the child is born.

If the unwed father's paternity is contested by the mother, he can either petition the court to establish that he is the father or contact the state's Child Support Enforcement Division or a similar agency. An official paternity test is typically required. If the mother isn't cooperative, a court may order her to provide the necessary sample so that testing can be completed. Some states also have putative father registries, which allow an unwed man to acknowledge his paternity. He will then be notified of any legal proceedings involving the child. After an unmarried man establishes paternity, he will have the same legal rights as a married father.

If unwed parents opt to live together and raise their child, financial arrangements are usually informally made by the couple. However, if an unmarried father is outside of the home and purposely kept from seeing his child, a fathers' rights attorney may attempt to work out a mutually acceptable custody arrangement or visitation plan. A family law attorney may also take steps to determine support obligations.

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