What Paternity Rights Do Unmarried Fathers Have?


Quick Answer

Unmarried fathers have paternity rights that include the right to visitation, shared custody and making decisions about the child's welfare, states About.com. They also have the right to establish a substantial relationship with their children and be actively involved in their upbringing. Specific rights of unmarried fathers vary between states, says the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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Full Answer

After paternity is established, an unmarried father has the same custody rights as a married father. If the child is not raised by both parents in the same home, an unmarried father has the right to petition a court for custody rights, states About.com. Shared custody, visitation rights and quality parenting time are also rights that an unmarried father enjoys.

Regardless of custody status, unmarried fathers have the right to support their children financially, either as an informal mutual arrangement or as a formal legal obligation. The biological link between an unmarried father and his child gives him the right to commit to the responsibilities of parenthood, even terminating adoption proceedings by the birth mother, explains the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Various states across the country have established putative father registries in which unmarried fathers voluntarily acknowledge paternity or the possibility of it. Registration ensures that unmarried fathers enjoy constitutional paternity rights, including the right to receive notice of any legal proceedings involving the child. Unmarried fathers who have established a substantial relationship with their children and have committed to the responsibilities of parenthood or have been involved in the child's upbringing enjoy these rights, says the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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