Unmarried Fathers: Do You Need to Establish Your Parental Rights?

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If you and your pregnant significant other don't plan to marry now or in the future, you may wonder what your rights are when it comes to your child. Unless you take steps to establish your rights as a father after your child is born, the law may not recognize you as the child's legal parent in the future. Learn why it's important to obtain parental rights as a father below.

Why Should You Obtain Your Parental Rights?

Even if you and your significant other change your minds and decide to cohabit, it's still important that you obtain parental rights to your child. If the other person chooses to leave your relationship sometime in the future, it may be difficult for you to obtain rights to visit your child. If you choose to fight for visitation, you'll need to take a paternity test to prove that you're the father of your child.

Once family court recognizes you as the legal father of your child, enforcement officials may make you pay child support. If you've already provided out-of-court financial care for your child, the extra expenses may cause some issues for you. A court may also want to see the store receipts, money orders, and any other proof of payment you may have on hand. If you can't prove that you already took responsibility for your child, the court may garnish your wages until you catch up. 

The financial problems mentioned above are just a few things you may potentially face if you don't acknowledge your role as a legal parent. 

When Do You Need to Establish Your Parental Rights?

If you plan to be present at your child's birth, be sure to sign a form called the Declaration of Paternity. The form will allow the health department in your state to list your name on your child's birth certificate. If the other parent denies your rights as a father in the future, the Declaration of Paternity and birth certificate can help protect you in family court. 

Unless you and the other parent agreed to cohabit, it may be in your best interest to voluntarily sign up for child support. Although voluntarily for child support may seem like the wrong thing to do, it may actually help you. If the other parent chooses to file for state assistance, the court will already have your income, living status, and other pertinent information on file. 

You can learn more about establishing your parental rights as a father by contacting a family law attorney, such as those at Souders Law Group.