These days, it’s becoming increasingly common for couples to have children outside of marriage. Sometimes, the pregnancy is unplanned but other times, a couple purposely starts a family with no intention of marrying.
Why do people do this? There are various reasons. Sometimes people are children of divorce and they no longer believe in the institution of marriage. Other times, they have been divorced before and they don’t want to get married again – those are the types of reasons that we typically see, but people have other reasons for not marrying.
Regardless of “why” two people decide to have children outside of marriage, it happens so frequently that many questions have been raised about a father’s rights toward his child that was born out of wedlock. Not only that, but unwed mothers have questions too. “Can I get child support if we were never married?” or “Can I get child support but not let him see my child?” are the types of questions unwed mothers ask.
Rights of Unwed Fathers
For starters, we not to make it clear that until paternity is legally established, an unwed father has zero rights toward his child. This means that an unwed father cannot demand to see his child, but at the same time, he has no legal obligation to pay child support. While he can voluntarily give the mother money, he is not required to until paternity is established.
If you are an unmarried mother, you’re probably wondering about child support. If you want the court to issue orders about child support, paternity has to be established first. To do this, you and the child’s father either have to voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity form at the hospital after the child’s birth, or you have to file a paternity action with the court and have a paternity test (DNA test) done through the courts.
However, once paternity is established, the father has the right to ask for custody or visitation of his child, so that’s something to keep in mind. If you have reservations about the father having custody rights due to domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, or another valid reason, be sure to discuss this with an attorney to explore your options.
If you have questions about paternity or child support, contact Cutter & Lax today.