An unwed father often feels powerless when his relationship with his child’s mother ends and the mother may tell him he has “no rights to see the child.” If the parents had the child out of wedlock, the father was not at the hospital when the child was born and never signed and Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, and there is no DNA test proving the identity of the father, the father’s rights may be momentarily compromised. However, he still has rights and should be keenly aware of them.
A lawyer well-versed in parentage cases can assist these fathers in commencing a Determination of Parentage case. If the father has already signed the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (“VAP”), that alone is enough to demonstrate he is the presumed father and establish his standing in a custody case. If there is no VAP, the judge may order a DNA test and enter a court order acknowledging the identity of the biological father. Once paternity is established, the parents and their counsel can work toward establishing custody and parenting time agreements. If they cannot agree, the judge will listen to witnesses and examine evidence to make a determination that is in the best interest of the child(ren).
Frequently unwed fathers are hauled into court by the mother seeking support. In these cases, if the father does not dispute he is the biological father, even though he never took a DNA test or signed a VAP, (and the mother does not dispute it either since she is seeking support) the father can request a court order acknowledging his paternity without taking a DNA test.