As an unmarried father, coming to a child custody agreement isn't just stressful, but it also comes along with a number of unique challenges. If you are the unmarried parent of a child that you're looking to arrange a legal custody agreement for, it's important that you know what you might face.
Primary Right To Custody
For unmarried parents, most states naturally award the mother primary custody. This grants her complete control over the care of the child, their medical treatment, where they live and any other factors. Unless it has been proven that the mother is unfit to take on this responsibility, full custody belongs to her.
For a lack of better words, fathers basically start off at the lower end of the totem pole. The unwed father has no legal right unless he seeks it from the courts. If the unmarried mother is making a decision or preventing the father from seeing the child, there is nothing he can do without a legal agreement.
Unlike cases of divorced parents, there is no automatic assumption that a child is yours. Typically, before any court will even consider the idea of hearing a case from an unwed father about child custody, it has to be proven that he is the biological parent of the child. In some cases, simply having your name on the birth certificate isn't enough. You may need to also have a paternity test performed.
In order to prevent a delay in your case, it's a good idea to have this test performed ahead of time. If the child was conceived through artificial conception and you are not the biological father, you will need to ensure you have legal documentation from the surrogate father or donor agency.
Wining Full Custody
As an unmarried father, it's important for you to be realistic about your custody goals. This is especially the case when it comes to winning full custody. If the mother is of good moral character and is able to financially support the child, winning full, physical custody from the unwed mother is pretty much impossible.
This has much to do with the unwed mother's primary right to custody. You can save yourself a lot of stress by focusing on joint custody or a visitation schedule that also accompanies some form of joint legal or medical custody for the child.
While stressful, it is not impossible to come up with an appropriate custody agreement between yourself and the unwed mother. An attorney from a firm like Koth & Gregory PC Law Firm can assist you with navigating these challenges.