The Paternity Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Louisiana

By Brian Richards

Unmarried biological fathers tend to have fewer rights than married fathers. Additionally, if you conceive a child with a woman who is married to another man, it is possible that her husband's rights will supersede your own. Louisiana law reserves some paternity rights for unmarried fathers, and is one of the few states that have a putative father registry.

Putative Father Registry

Louisiana has a registry that permits biological fathers to voluntarily acknowledge their paternity. When you supply the identifying information for yourself, the mother and the child, the Louisiana putative father registry will notify you when there are any court proceedings involving your child, such as petitions to terminate parental rights or adoption requests.

Constitutional Right

Louisiana law recognizes the constitutional parental right of biological fathers when the father has established a substantial relationship with the child. A substantial relationship exists when the father contributes both financially and emotionally to the child's upbringing. There is no absolute threshold that must be reached to establish this constitutional right, and Louisiana courts will determine on a case-by-case basis whether the father has forged a substantial relationship with his child.

Custody or Visitation

Unwed fathers must establish paternity before they may petition for custody or visitation rights. If the child is born to a married woman, the child is assumed to be the legitimate child of the woman's husband unless the biological father is listed on the child's birth certificate. If the mother and presumed father do not acknowledge the paternity of the biological father, the biological father must establish paternity through a court order by filing a lawsuit in family court.

Termination

Unwed Louisiana fathers have the right to terminate their parental rights with the consent of the mother. However, termination of parental rights does not excuse child support obligations unless the mother is married to another man, or unless the child is adopted by a second parent. Additionally, Louisiana permits a registered putative father to rescind his registration within 60 days if he changes his mind. Outside of this 60-day window, the father must establish that he registered as the putative father due to fraud, duress (he felt forced to register) or mistake of fact (he believed that he was the biological father of the child, but was not).

About the Author

Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.