Any biological parent has the right to go after visitation and/or child custody of their child or children. This stands true whether or not the parents of the child were married at the time of the child’s birth. Much like any child custody decision, the best interest of the child is what is used by the courts to decide on child visitation or custody case disputes and involve unmarried fathers. Unless there is concrete evidence which indicates otherwise, it is the presumption of the courts that make the child visitation or custody decision that it is in the child’s best interests to have the involvement of both parents.
Fathers who at the time of the child’s birth were not married must establish legal paternity in order to have access to their rights as a father. Many times, this means that both parents fill out and sign an acknowledgement of paternity with the proper state agency or court; this can be done at the time of or after the child’s birth. If paternity cases are disputed, a legal process which includes DNA testing will end with a court order which states whether or not the man in question is the biological father of the child. Once paternity has been established, the father may then pursue child citation rights or other custody rights.
Either after establishing an agreement among parents, or if there was not an agreement able to be made, either of the parents is able to ask the court for help with child visitation or custody. Parents who are able to agree on a parenting plan are able to file with the court, they can ask the judge to approve as well as incorporate the agreement into a court order on the visitation rights and/or custody. When an agreement becomes part of a court order, both parents are able to enforce their legal parenting rights.
If both parents are not able to to come to an agreement on these arrangements, either of them is than able to appeal to the the court to concede to his or her request via a hearing which is contested. Courts who decide visitation or any other custody issues will place their focus on the child’s best interest. Usually, a court will presume that having both parents involved in the upbringing of the child is beneficial. This is a presumption which is able to be overcome if one of the parents is able to show that citation or custody rights of the other parent could quite possibly cause the child harm. Things such as drug issues, domestic violence, etc. can be used to do this.
Rarely will a father win sole custody of their child who has already been being raised by the mother. To do this, an unwed father would have to prove that the child’s mother is unfit to raise the child and/or that he as the father has actually been the child’s primary caregiver. However, shared child visitation or custody rights will allow for many fathers who are unmarried to play a more consistent role in the lives of their children.
If there is a need for the arrangement to be changed, the child visitation or custody order can be modified; this could be done if one parent were to petition the court for the change, or if both parents have agreed on this change.