When a women has a child and is not married at the time of birth, the paternity (legal father) of the baby is not established. In most states, simply putting the father's name on the birth certificate is not enough to legally establish paternity of the child. If the paternity of the child has never legally been established, the mother of the child has numerous rights from the time the child is born until the child reaches adulthood.
Custody and Visitation
Barring extraordinary circumstances such as the intervention of the state, when a child is born to a woman who is not married, the mother automatically has full custody of the child from birth. The mother will retain full custody until the child reaches the age of majority or until paternity has been established and the court legally changes the custody of the child. The mother also has complete say regarding whether or not the alleged father has any visitation with the child unless, and until, paternity has legally been established and a visitation order is in place.
Religion, Education and Medical Treatment
The mother of the child will also have the right to make all decisions regarding the child including important decisions such as what religion the child will practice, what schools the child will attend and what medical treatment the child will receive. Absent a legal determination of paternity, the alleged father has no right to interfere in the mother's decision making for the child.
The mother is under no obligation to establish paternity unless she is receiving government benefits such as Food Stamps or Medicaid for the child. The mother may, however, choose to establish paternity either by agreement or by requesting the courts to bring in the putative (alleged) father for DNA testing. A putative father may also petition the courts to establish paternity in most jurisdictions.
- a mother and a child image by Alexander Petrari from Fotolia.com