Table of Contents:
- Unwed Father's Rights in Texas
- Unwed Fathers' Rights in Missouri
- Unmarried Fathers' Rights in Washington State
- Unmarried Mothers' Rights in New York State
Texas state law automatically lists the husband as the father of a child on birth certificates. However, if you are unmarried, you must request to have your name added to the child's birth certificate. If the child's mother is cooperative, she may add your name to the birth certificate after you sign a legal form acknowledging your paternity. Otherwise, your name can be added to the birth certificate by court order.
If you want to force an uncooperative mother to allow you visitation rights, you must request a court hearing. At the court hearing, after establishing paternity you can request custody or visitation rights. Custody in a legal sense does not automatically refer to physical custody, but is rather the ability to influence your child's upbringing and make decisions about her. Visitation rights establish guidelines for seeing your child.
After establishing paternity, you may also be obligated to pay child support payments. This will be determined during a hearing about visitation and custody rights. Typically, child support payments are based on your income and how many children you have.
If you are concerned that the mother of your child may place the baby up for adoption, you must register with the state's Vital Statistics Unit within 31 days of the child's birth. Once you register, the court will notify you of any impending adoption hearing so that you can protest the adoption.
Making Parental Decisions
Decisions about parental rights can be decided during a custody hearing in court. In general, if your rights are not limited you may take your child for medical treatment, direct her moral and religious upbringing and have input on her education.
At the time of his child’s birth, the father can sign an affidavit of paternity that allows his name to be placed on the child’s birth certificate. However, this affidavit does not grant him custody, visitation or child support rights. For those rights, he must file a paternity suit that grants him the right to petition for custody of his child. The lawsuit can be filed by the mother, father or state child support agency. Generally, DNA testing determines paternity. With that established, the courts will determine custody, visitation and child support.
Missouri determines custody of a child based on the best interest of the child, not the rights of the parents. When ruling in the best interest of a child, the court will consider eight factors in accordance with Missouri Statutes (Title 30, Chapter 452, Sections 375 and 400). The factors are: each parent's preferences and their proposed parenting plan; the needs of the child and the capacity and readiness of each parent to fulfill those needs as a parent; the mother-child relationship, the father-child relationship, and any sibling-child relationship; the parents’ willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent; the child’s performance at home, school and within the community; the metal and physical health of the child, mother and father; whether the either parent intents to move the child out of the principal residence; and the child's preference. Custody is not based on the gender of the parent, nor is child support.
Missouri uses the Income Shares Model to establish child support. The court estimates the financial support the child would have had if his parents remained together. This amount is divided between the parents based on the income of each parent. The parent who earns more has a higher financial responsibility to the child and will pay the other parent child support. It does not matter which parent is the custodial parent.
Fathers do not have rights to ask for court-ordered custody, parenting time or child support until they have legally established paternity of their children according to the laws of Washington state. Married fathers generally have parental rights due to a legal presumption of fatherhood, but unmarried fathers can only assert their parental rights in the Washington courts after first establishing paternity of their children. A father must also establish paternity before seeking a say in everyday decisions about his child's life.
Under the laws of Washington state, unmarried parents can agree to identify a man as their child's acknowledged father. Section 26.26.300 in the Revised Code of Washington allows parents to sign an "acknowledgment of paternity" to establish paternity of a child. Both the father and mother must sign the acknowledgement with the intention of giving legal rights to the man as the child's parent. A man cannot obtain the legal status of an acknowledged father if the mother is married to another man at the time of the child's birth or if the mother has already acknowledged another man as the father. In these situations, the man may need to file a parentage lawsuit in the Washington court.
Unmarried fathers can also gain parental rights through court adjudication if their child's mother will not agree to identify them as the acknowledged father. To establish paternity, a father may file a Petition to Establish Parentage in the state court in his local Washington county. If the child's mother agrees with him regarding paternity, the court may issue a parentage order without significant evidence. If the child's mother does not cooperate, however, the court may order genetic testing before confirming the unmarried father's legal relationship to the child. The man becomes the child's adjudicated father when the court issues an order of parentage.
Comparison to Presumed Fathers
Unlike with acknowledged and adjudicated fathers, Washington state law does not require that presumed fathers take any additional actions before they can seek to assert their parental rights in state court proceedings. A presumed father generally establishes paternity and the accompanying parental rights through marriage to the child's mother. A man who married the child's mother before the child's birth, or a divorced or separated man who was married to the child's mother within 300 days of the child's birth, falls under the presumption in Washington law that identifies him to be the child's legal father.
Requests for Court-Ordered Parental Rights
A man who is the child's acknowledged father, adjudicated father or presumed father may file an action in the Washington courts for a parenting plan or residential schedule that sets forth each parent's custodial rights and visitation with the child. He can request a court order according to his preferences for parenting time and the court will consider the request according to the laws of Washington state. If the child's mother files her own petition for a parenting plan or residential schedule, the father can disagree with her and respond with his own proposed parenting plan that reflects his preferences for custody and visitation. Under Washington law, the court can limit a father or mother's legal rights if the parent has neglected or abandoned the child in the past, if the parent has perpetrated abuse or a violent crime, or if the court specifies another justification.
You can use your parenting plan to cover matters besides child custody and visitation. It can also deal with how the two of you make decisions about children's medical care, schooling and other everyday questions. Even married couples don't always agree on these things, so having a plan can make shared parenthood run smoother.
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.