Unmarried fathers do not automatically have the same rights to their children as married parents do. Many states, including South Dakota, require the father to take extra steps to gain legal custody of the child. While married fathers are presumed to be the biological father of the child, unmarried fathers must prove that they are before attempting to gain custody or related rights.
Demonstration of Paternity
To become the child's legal parent, an unmarried father must establish paternity. In South Dakota, this is a fairly straightforward process, according to Directory M's FAQ for Unmarried Parents. The father must contact the Department of Vital records to add his name to the child's birth certificate. He and the child's mother must both sign an affidavit stating that he is the child's biological father.
The unmarried father must be recognized as the child's legal parent prior to the father's death. If he neglects to take care of this, the child will have a difficult time getting Social Security survivor benefits or other government benefits because she lacks proof that she is related to the father.
If an unmarried couple adopts a child, both partners are considered the child's legal parents. However, unmarried couples may have a more difficult time adopting a child than married couples. They have to prove that their home is stable despite the fact that they are not married.