In 2008 approximately 41 percent of all births in the U.S. were to unmarried women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The circumstances surrounding those births vary widely. Many of the unwed mothers are in relationships with the father of the children. Some, however, are raising a child with no cooperation or contact with the child's father. In these cases, unmarried mothers must know and understand what their rights are concerning the child.
In the state of New York a mother's rights are established when she gives birth to the child and can only be terminated by a judge in court. A father has no rights concerning a child until paternity has been established. This is done with an affidavit at birth or by petitioning the court later in the child's life.
Parental rights after a divorce are dictated by the divorce decree. The judge presiding over the divorce is the decision-maker. Custody of the children, visitation, tax benefits and financial responsibilities are determined by this judge. She has the authority to restrict visitation rights of the noncustodial parent such as requiring supervision during the visit. To restrict the mother's rights, the court requires the opposing spouse to present evidence of abuse, neglect or other dangers to the child.
Unmarried mothers who do not have primary custody of their children may be required by the courts to pay child support to the father or guardian. Similarly, the unmarried mother may be entitled to receive support for the children, provided by the father of the children. The family courts decide child support arrangements. The noncustodial parent in New York cannot have their visitation rights to a child restricted as a result of a child support dispute, without a court judgment.
Unmarried mothers cannot give their children up for adoption in the state of New York until the child is born. After that, the mother has the right to change her mind and rescind the adoption agreement. She must do so within 30 days of surrendering the child to the adoptive parents. In private adoptions, the mother has 45 days to change her mind. She may inform the father of her intent to give the baby up for adoption beforehand, or leave that notification up to the adoption officials.