On behalf of The Walters Law Group, Ltd. posted in Divorce on Friday, October 18, 2013.
As difficult as custody and child support issues can be for a couple when they are getting a divorce, the subject can become even more complex if the parents were never married. This can be especially so for unwed fathers. There are many incorrect assumptions that such fathers often make that can keep them from fully taking advantage of their rights and being aware of their parental obligations.
One major misapprehension is that the signing of a birth certificate as a father automatically establishes paternity. This status can only be adjudicated by a court regardless of what appears on the certificate. While a father may be legally obligated to support a child, he does not have any legal right to see his child until the court has awarded visitation rights. Similarly, the payment of child support does not grant someone visitation rights or take them away. A man can be ordered to pay child support even if he has no custodial or visitation rights, which again must be granted by a court.
It is also important to note that a man can receive credit for supporting his child before he has been ordered by the court to pay support, assuming proper records are kept. Any deviation from the manner of payment specified in a subsequent order, however, could result in the support being deemed a gift rather than in compliance with the order.
A father who is concerned about the scope of his parental rights may wish to speak with an attorney who has experience in family law. The attorney may be able to help determine the status of his visitation rights, and may be able to explain the nature of his other rights and duties as a parent.
Source: ABC Action News, “Five important things that unwed fathers need to know“, Yvette Harrell, October 08, 2013