Child custody and child support can be emotional issues, but these can be further complicated when the parents are unmarried, and there are no established parental rights for the father. When a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother receives immediate custody, and the burden is placed on the father to pursue his rights.
To gain parental rights when not married to the child’s mother, a father must first establish paternity and then demonstrate that they are committed to parenting the child. If you are an unmarried father and want to be a part of your child’s life, there are several things you should know about this process.
What Is on the Birth Certificate?
One of the simplest ways to establish and acknowledge paternity is for the father to be present at the birth of the child and have their name listed on the birth certificate. If a father’s name is on the birth certificate, he will have equal weight to the mother in court.
Assuming the father doesn’t have his name on the birth certificate, the first step in gaining parental rights is to establish paternity. This is generally accomplished through an approved DNA paternity test.
If a Father Can Prove Paternity
Once a father establishes paternity, he will then need to legally define his custody status. According to the law, an unmarried father has the same rights as a married one. Custody would not be an issue if both parents were living together but this is often not the case.
The father will have to petition the court to establish custody rights. When going before a family law court in Washington, the father must be able to show that they are capable of taking care of the child. Single fathers are rarely granted primary physical custody of a child when the mother is deemed a suitable parent.
Parental Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Washington
As an unmarried father, it is possible to secure parental rights as well as set up a legally-binding shared custody arrangement and visitation schedule. Even when unmarried, the courts in this state expect both parents to financially support their children. This is something that is determined based on factors such as the responsibilities and incomes of each parent as well as the amount of time that a child spends with each parent.
Speak With a Qualified Washington Family Law Attorney
If you are a father that wishes to fight for their parental rights in Washington, the family law attorneys at AB Law can help. We understand the complexities of establishing paternity as well as the other factors that the courts will consider in these decisions.
As a father, deciding on a legal separation or divorce can be even more challenging when there are minor children in the home. Divorces can also involve some contentious issues such as alimony, child custody, and support.
At AB Law in Tacoma, our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys will protect the rights of you and your children during this difficult time.
Contact our office now at 253-507-8957 or reach us online to schedule an initial consultation.