Whether you’re in a serious relationship with someone or maybe had a one-night stand, finding out you’re having a child will be a game changer, especially as the father. In most states, the law says unwed mothers have legal custody over the child, but that doesn’t mean you should just take what the law says. Instead, you need to make it a point to be in your child’s life, and this requires some work on your part, especially if you and the mother aren’t going to get married. If you are an unwed father, here are some things you need to know.
Get a paternity test.
Even if you’re 100% sure the child is yours, it’s still necessary for the courts that you get a paternity test. This gives the courts proof that you are the child’s legal father and will help you get the rights you deserve. This is done by swabbing your mouth and having your DNA and the DNA of your child run together. Once your paternity is proven, you can take the next steps to ensure you get the rights that belong to you.
Fight for your custody.
Even though an unwed mother will be granted legal custody, that doesn’t mean you can’t file for joint custody of the child. Having joint custody means you and the child’s mother get to split time equally with the children. It also means you’re both financially responsible for the child and also means you both get equal say in the rights and decisions of your children, such as their medical care, where they go to school, what religion they’ll be raised in, and more.
Fighting for custody means finding an attorney who will help you get the custody agreement you want. You will want to talk with a legal professional to see what your rights are and what you need to do to help you achieve those rights. Once you’ve talked this over, be sure to do whatever your legal representative asks of you, such as finding the financial records you need or the paperwork you need to help prove your case and get the arrangement you want.
If you and the child’s mother have a good relationship, getting your version of custody shouldn’t be that difficult to do; however, if you have a strained relationship, know that she may want to fight you on the custody, and this can turn it into a battle.
Pay your dues.
Regardless of what the courts may decide, know that your child is your financial responsibility, and it’s up to you to help support them so they can have every opportunity that’s necessary for them. The courts may require you to pay child support, and if they do, know that you need to pay this to help your child get the resources he/she needs to grow. Also know that your child support payments are a legal agreement, and not paying them could put you at risk of serving jail time.
Spend time with your child.
Children need their fathers for better development, and whether you get joint custody or only have visitation, it’s important you spend as much time with your child as possible. Be there for him/her when they need you, find fun things to do with one another, and be sure to get involved with school and activates as your child gets older. Even though you and their mom may no longer be together, that doesn’t mean there needs to be a strain on your relationship with your child.
As a father, it’s up to you to use these tips and have a successful relationship with your child.