Not all children in the Winston-Salem area are born to married parents. It is not unusual for unmarried couples to become pregnant only to break up before the baby is born. When this happens, the child’s mother has custody of the child following the birth. However, what are an unmarried father’s rights in such situations?
What must an unmarried father do to pursue visitation or custody?
If an unmarried father wants to pursue visitation with or custody of his child, paternity needs to be legally established. Once parentage is established the father can pursue child custody and visitation rights if he wishes and the mother can pursue child support. There are two ways to establish paternity in North Carolina: voluntary acknowledgment or a court order.
Establishing paternity in North Carolina
If the child’s mother and father agree on the child’s parentage, they can sign an Affidavit of Parentage. This form is available at the hospital where the child is born, or at an area Child Support Services office. Signing an Affidavit of Parentage is binding and legally establishes the man as the child’s biological father. If there is a dispute regarding the child’s parentage paternity can be established by a court order, which usually involves genetic testing.
Children benefit from establishing paternity
Once paternity is established, it allows the child’s father and mother to work out a child custody and visitation plan or seek such an order from the court. Children benefit from having a healthy relationship with both parents. Families come in all shapes and sizes and the love and support provided by two parents can help a child grow and thrive, even if the parents are no longer in a relationship with one another.