The societal trends of families in the United States have changed quite a bit over the last 50 years. While families in the mid-1900s were composed mainly of married parents, that is not always the case today. The number of unmarried fathers has doubled over the last half-century. About 1 in 5 children are living with their unmarried mother. This means that unmarried fathers must take steps to seek visitation with their children.
Unfortunately, without a legal order, mothers are not required to allow an unmarried father to spend time with their child. A father should seek a court order to ensure that they get regular visits with their child. Before you can take legal action, you must establish that you are the child’s biological father.
When parents are married when a child is born, the father is presumed to be the legal parent and is named on the birth certificate. However, when parents are unmarried you must properly establish paternity. Before the court can legally impose visitation or child support, they must be certain of the child’s father. You can establish parentage by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or by court order.
- Affidavit of Parentage: An affidavit of parentage is a legal document that is a voluntary admission of paternity. The document must be signed by both parents. It is easiest to sign the affidavit at the hospital at the time of birth. Once signed, the father’s name will be placed on the birth certificate. An affidavit can be provided at any time before the child reaches the age of 18.
- Court Order: In cases where one or the other party does not approve of the affidavit, the court must determine paternity. The court will generally require testing and both parents must comply. Once they receive the results, the court will declare the legal father and the father’s name can be put on the birth certificate.
While parents may agree to child visitation, it is in your best interest to obtain a court order. A court order will provide the legal basis for visitation and will ensure that you will have access to your child. A parent may request a hearing for child visitation. Generally, both parents are allowed to share time with their child. The non-custodial parent will be allowed visitation according to a parenting schedule. It is best to make the parenting schedule as detailed as possible. The parents may agree to the schedule ahead of the court date or they may each submit their schedule to the court. The judge will always make a decision that is in the best interest of the child. Once in place, visitation continues according to court order until and unless a modification is made.
It is critical that an unwed father maintain his parental rights and responsibilities. Without a court order, your visits with your child will be at the mercy of the child’s mother. Establishing paternity and obtaining court-ordered visitation will ensure that you continue to be an integral part of your child’s life. If you need to seek court-ordered visitation, call us today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at (704) 370-2828 for a consultation.
We take cases in North and South Carolina.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes four Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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