In the United States, biological parents of a child have visitation and custody rights whether they were married or unmarried at the child's time of birth, reports FindLaw. An unmarried father needs to establish paternity by submitting a paternity document stating that he acknowledges paternity or undergoing DNA testing if necessary. Unmarried parents usually create a parenting agreement to determine which parent gains custody and decide on visitation periods and other concerns related to the child's welfare.
After signing a document acknowledging paternity, both parents should file it with a state court or agency, recommends FindLaw. DNA testing is essential when either parent disputes paternity, and a court order concludes if a person is the biological father. After establishing paternity, the father may seek visitation or custody rights.
A parenting agreement allows parents to negotiate which parent makes primary decisions when it comes to the child's education, religion, health care and other aspects of the child's life, notes FindLaw. The parenting plan also states the process of dealing with future changes to the agreement.
After making a parenting agreement, the next step is to file the document with a court and request a judge to include the plan in a court order related to visitation or custody, enabling the parents to reinforce their parental rights, explains FindLaw. If parents fail to negotiate properly, a contested hearing may resolve visitation or custody issues.