Full parental rights for unmarried fathers

Parental rights issues continue to come up in courtrooms and legislatures. Many years ago, fathers did not always have an easy path for gaining visitation and custody rights. Over time, however, things changed. In California, a father can now seek equity under the law regarding parental rights. A married father who divorces his spouse might request custody or other rights during the proceedings. Unmarried fathers, however, obviously do not file for divorce. So, some wonder how an unmarried father can explore his rights in California.

California residents may appreciate the Golden State’s policies to extend fathers the same rights as a child’s mother. And the state affords these rights to both married and unmarried fathers.

The California Family Law Code 7610 clarifies issues of parental rights for unmarried fathers. If a child is born to an unwed mother and father, a “Declaration of Paternity” may establish the biological father’s identity. Both father and mother must sign the declaration for it to be valid.

If the mother refuses to sign the Declaration of Paternity, establishing paternity must occur in court. The court would order DNA testing to determine the paternity issue.

So what parental rights would the unmarried biological father receive? Custody and visitation rights are the principal parenting rights. Custody could be joint; although, the child may live with the mother. Joint custody would give the biological father significant say in decisions about the child’s schooling, health care and more.

Concerns may arise about the mother’s refusal to accept joint custody or the father’s parental rights. Doing so in defiance of the courts could prove highly regrettable. The father might end up with sole custody in some situations.

Family law attorneys often deal with custody, parental rights and support when representing clients in divorces. Unmarried parents might still find it worthwhile to speak with an attorney when requiring clarification on custody and other matters regarding children.