The dissolution of a relationship is difficult on its own, but adding children to the mix can make it even worse. This is especially true if you and your partner weren't married. As an unmarried father you will want to make sure that you have custodial or visitation rights to your child. The following tips can help you secure these rights.
Tip #1: Establish Paternity
Hopefully your paternity was established at the time of birth. This is typically done by listing yourself as the father on the birth certificate. If you are not listed as the father on the birth documents, then you may need to take some extra steps to establish paternity. This may require blood or DNA testing, depending on state law and whether the mother is contesting your paternity.
Tip #2: File for Parental Rights
In some cases you may need to file for parental rights. This usually occurs if the relationship breaks up before the birth of the child. It's vital that you do this right away. Not only does this begin establishing paternity, it may also prevent your ex from assigning custody to someone else, putting the child up for adoption, or listing someone else as the father.
Tip #3: Request a Temporary Visitation or Custody Agreement
Depending on the cooperation of your ex, you can draw this up yourselves or you may need to seek a court-ordered temporary agreement. Keep in mind this agreement is not binding and it is subject to change once the final court-ordered custody and visitation agreement is settled upon. It's also very important that you follow this temporary agreement exactly. In other words, don't skip visitations – you don't want it to look like you are shirking your parental duties when the court begins making final decisions on your case.
Tip #4: Get Assistance
State laws can vary greatly, so it is vital that you have a local family law attorney on your side to help you navigate the legalities of securing custody or visitation. In fact, you want to seek advice as soon as possible. Your lawyer can handle communications with your ex and her legal team if you feel too emotional to do so responsibly. They can also advise you on the best tactics to take regarding visitation and child support. They can also help you sue for custody if you have reason to believe that your spouse is an unfit parent. Contact a company like Ivy Law Group PLLC for more information.