Child Custody for Unmarried Parents
In Ohio, child custody issues are handled differently depending upon whether the parents are married or unmarried at the time of the child’s birth. The courts recognize paternity automatically for married couples. For unmarried parents, however, the courts do not recognize the biological father as the legal father unless there is a court order or paternity test on file with the Court or Child Support Enforcement Agency. This means the father has no obligation to pay any child support, but he also has no visitation rights and cannot be involved in any decisions regarding the child until paternity is established. This catch-22 status for fathers is why so many unmarried dads end up working with a child support lawyer in Columbus, Ohio. Unmarried men who want to be involved in their children’s lives need legal representation to protect their rights so they are not in a situation where they are on the hook for child support, but cannot see their child.
Custody and Support Issues for Unmarried Mothers
If you are an unmarried mother of a child in Ohio, you will have full custody of your child until a court rule otherwise. This means you can raise your child as you see fit and do not need to consult with the child’s father on any issues. You can even leave the state with your child if you want; the father cannot contest this until his rights have been established through the court.
Keep in mind, however, that you also do not have any right to child support if paternity has not been established. If you want child support, you should seek assistance through a child support lawyer in Columbus, Ohio who can guide you through the process If the father fights you on this, you may need to prove to the courts that he is the father through a paternity test. On the other hand, the father may willingly pay support and file for visitation or custody rights.
Custody and Support Issues for Unmarried Fathers
As the unmarried father of a child, you are not working from a position of strength because you do not start out with any rights concerning your offspring. If a woman you are not married to has a child and you want to be a part of his or her life, you will need to establish paternity. There are two ways you can do this:
1. Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity
This is a simple document stating that you are the father of the child. If you and your son’s or daughter’s mother agree that you are the father, you can sign the affidavit and she can give her consent. It is best to have this done as quickly as possible to protect the rights of both parents as well as the rights of the child.
2. Paternity Suit
If the mother does not acknowledge you as the father of her child, you may have to file a paternity suit. Seeking help from a child support lawyer in Columbus, Ohio should be your first step, as he or she will be familiar with the paternity test procedure and the paperwork required. The courts will then decide what rights you have and whether you are a legal parent. Paternity suits can be filed by father who want some rights to see their children or by mothers who want to seek child support for their son or daughter. The results can cut both ways. If the court has trouble determining whether a man is the biological father of a child, a paternity test may be ordered. This is a kind of genetic testing that determines scientifically who are the biological parents of a child.
Obtaining Child Custody
Once paternity has been established, a father can petition the courts for visitation rights or partial physical or legal custody. Custody is always complicated and can be even more confusing when the mother and father are not married to each other. To protect everyone’s rights, both parties should consult with a child support lawyer. The attorneys at Petroff Law Offices in Columbus, Ohio have the experience and knowledge to handle the complexities of child custody and support issues for unmarried parents. Call us today at (614) 222-4288 to schedule a free, initial consultation to protect your parental rights.