Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Establish Parental Rights for Unmarried Fathers in Ohio

Given that the percentage of children being born to unwed mothers continues to increase, an issue naturally arises in the context of family law and that is what happens when unmarried parents decide to split.

The law in Ohio says that when a child is born to an unmarried woman, she has sole custody of that child until the father has a court issue an order acknowledging his paternity and granting him rights. The law is clear that unmarried women who give birth are the default residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a family court judge issues an order designating another person the legal guardian of the child.

This should not be interpreted to mean that Ohio law says that unmarried mothers will always keep custody of the children. That’s absolutely not true. Once a father decides to go to court and have his paternity established, he is then able to request shared parenting. Except in exceptional circumstances, some kind of joint custody arrangement is usually established. In fact, in cases where the mother is either unfit or unable to provide a stable life for the child, the father might actually receive sole legal custody of the child.

There are several different ways paternity can be established in Ohio, even without a DNA test. The first way is through an affidavit acknowledging paternity. This is typically done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, but can also be done later at a county health department or local registrar’s office. The mother’s consent is required in this case and the father should know that he is giving up the option of having DNA definitively establish paternity, but this is a quick and easy way of establishing your rights as a father.

Another option familiar to most people is a DNA test. An order from the state can require parties participate in a DNA test to establish paternity. Many times this is initiated by a woman seeking child support, but it can also be launched by a father through a court action.

Once paternity is established this does not mean that visitation rights flow immediately to the newly recognized father. Legitimized fathers only receive visitation rights once there is a court order establishing them. If you’re facing a similar situation and want the ability to see your children, it’s important to speak to an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help you navigate a custody challenge. If you find yourself facing the prospect of a custody dispute, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Gasper.

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