An unmarried father has the right to make decisions regarding the welfare of his child, to be notified of legal proceedings, such as placement into foster care or adoption, and to file for visitation or custody, explains About.com. He must establish paternity to have these rights legally recognized.
Unmarried fathers must establish paternity by putting their names on their child's birth certificate, states About.com. If this is not possible, they can fill out an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, sometimes called a Declaration of Paternity. This allows fathers to make medical decisions, to choose their child's education, to decide what religion their child should practice and make other decisions for their child. Once a father's paternity is legally recognized, he may file for joint or full physical custody or visitation rights in a separate court proceeding.
Some states offer a putative paternity registry for men who believe they might be the father of an unborn child, reports About.com. Potential fathers on these registries are notified of legal proceedings, such as the child being placed for adoption. Legal fathers are required to provide financially for their children, which may mean paying child support. They are also legally and financially responsible for the child's actions.