Unwed fathers must establish paternity to seek custody

There are many different family makeups in Ohio. Many couples are married when they have children, but this is not always the situation, and many couples who are not married have children together.

Fathers' legal rights to their children are different if the couple is not married when they have the child. The law recognizes the mother's legal rights immediately, but fathers must establish paternity prior to becoming the legal father.

There are a couple of different ways that fathers can establish paternity. One is by the mother and the father completing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit and filing it with the Central Paternity Registry. This form can be filled out at birth or at a later time.

If the couple does not sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit then paternity must be established through a court order. If there is any dispute of who the father really is, then the couple will need to submit to genetic testing to establish paternity.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it is necessary for the father to be able to even seek child custody of their children. So, if a father wants to have custody and visitation rights, he must establish paternity first. Once paternity is established, fathers then can start a custody proceeding and seek both custody and visitation with their children. The ultimate child custody determination will be made by analyzing a number of factors to determine what is in the child's best interest.

A mother and father in Ohio may be absolutely certain who the father of a child is, but that does not give the father any legal rights. The couple still either needs to legally acknowledge who the father is or have a court order determining the father.

Experienced attorneys understand the complications associated with establishing custody for unwed fathers and may be able to guide one through the process.

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