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Unmarried parents of children usually fight over three things – child support, visitation and the choices either parent is going to make as it relates to a child. While things are still amicable chances are you’re not going to care too much about how these things play out, but if the relationship sours you’ll need to be prepared for a lengthy legal battle. Battles that in most cases can be avoided. If you’re currently expecting a child and about to become a parent, or you and your partner already have a child together (but aren’t married) you need to sort through the legalities of having a child. If not for yourselves then for the sake of your child, who’ll most likely feel any animosity or friction these proceedings can have down the line.

Voluntarily Establishing Paternity

As the unwed father of a child, you have an opportunity to voluntarily establish your paternity. You can do this at the hospital when the child is born by filling in certain forms. Even if you don’t do it at this time, you have until the child is 18 to voluntarily establish paternity. When you do it this way you’ll have to submit documentation to the court.

Why Should You Voluntarily Establish Paternity?

As a father, you should be a part of your child’s life, as it will give them a sense of belonging and identity. Not only this, but your child can benefit from your health insurance, veteran benefits, social security, and pension. The child also has the opportunity to receive an inheritance and will now have more information about your medical history.

Visitation and Child Support

After you’ve voluntarily established paternity you should make an effort to decide on a visitation schedule and child support. It’s not necessary for you to have a lengthy court battle to determine these. You can simply have the legal paperwork drawn up that will stipulate what these provisions are and have a judge sign off on it. In these documents, you’ll state important rules like moving to another state and how that affects the child. As well as which parent will make medical choices for the child etc. All of this will be included in the paperwork – and will be legally binding on both parents once you’ve received the judges signature.

Does A Name On A Birth Certificate Automatically Give A Father Visitation Rights?

No. Voluntarily establishing paternity is only the first step in getting visitation rights or requesting child support. In fact, the father’s name on the birth certificate doesn’t place any legal obligations on him. If you as the father want visitation rights your best recourse is to sit down with the mother and discuss the parenting of your child. Once you’ve agreed on how you’ll handle child support and visitation you should approach a mediator or paralegal. A paralegal will help you put your agreement into writing and submit these documents to the court.

What If The Other Parent Isn’t Cooperating?

If you’re in a position where the other parent isn’t cooperating – whether you’re a mother seeking child support or a father seeking visitation, your only option is to approach a court.

For that, you’ll need to file a claim and wait for the respondent to submit their answers. Once this has been ironed out you’ll be able to move forward and confirm visitation and support arrangements.

Isn’t It Better to Avoid Going To Court?

Your child should be your number one priority, so it’s understandable that you may want to avoid going to court. But, you shouldn’t avoid putting legal parameters in place that clearly define your responsibilities. The easiest and most stress-free way is to get your current arrangement (if you have one) put into writing and then filed so a judge can sign off on the arrangement and make it legally binding. Down the line, you’ll find this simple act is in the best interest of your child.