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Unmarried fathers and child custody concerns

Imagine you discovered yesterday that your ex-girlfriend whom you haven't seen for about seven months just had a baby. You're pretty sure that the baby is yours, and you want to claim your rights as a parent. What can you do?

As an unmarried father who is no longer dating the mother of your child, you need to act fast to secure your parental rights.

How to protect your parental rights as an unmarried dad

If you're still dating the mother of your baby, then you'll be in touch, and you'll know when the birth is happening. Make sure that you're present for the birth, and present so that you can sign the appropriate paperwork to confirm that you're the father at the hospital.

As for an ex-boyfriend, who is now a father, you can still claim your parental rights. The court will automatically award the mother of your child full physical custody, and since you're not married, you might have a hard time getting shared custody rights.

However, even if the mother objects, you should be able to establish paternity. Paternity may be established in various ways if the mother objects. Usually this process involves a court-ordered genetic test after the father files the appropriate legal paperwork.

After establishing paternity, the court will usually award the father legal custody and visitation rights. Legal custody will allow you to be a part of decisions made relating to your child's upbringing and care. Visitation rights will let you spend a certain amount of time with your child every month.

You may be able to settle your paternity matter

In the best of circumstances, the mother of your child will agree that it's in the best interests of the child to spend time with his or her father. In these situations, the mother may happily negotiate with you a fair and reasonable visitation schedule, and voluntarily agree to put your name on the birth certificate as the father.

Don't wait until it's too late

New York family law courts generally want to see fathers who are actively involved in their children's lives and actively supporting their children financially. As such, the longer a father waits to claim parental rights, the more difficult it will become. Therefore, it's important that fathers act now before it's too late.

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