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Home | Blogs | mccabepatrick's blog

For All the Unmarried Fathers

To Never Married Fathers:

One of the most asked question is what rights do never married fathers have with regards to their children.

The answer is simple:


Never married fathers do have a responsibility to support their children, so they will usually be ordered to pay child support.

If two parents are married then they have joint legal and joint physical custody of their children as a benefit of marriage.  This is not a religious or ethical view, it is simply the law.

For children born out of wedlock there is only one responsible adult, the mother.   

Children born out of wedlock have much more difficult lives, it is not an ideal situation and in most cases a very bad idea.

However the responsible father can rectify this situation by going to court and petitioning for shared legal custody.

Shared legal custody gives a parent a right to the medical records of their child as well as their school records and all other records relating to their child, it is the first step in becoming a parent in the eyes of the court.  To obtain shared legal custody you will most likely have to have a paternity test taken to prove you are a parent.  Most judges have no issue in granting shared legal custody.

Most fathers seek rights to their children after something has gone wrong, which is not the right time to do this.  Fathers should seek shared legal custody at the first possible instance. 

Many fathers engage lawyers when things go wrong and unfortunately get a lot of bad advice.   Regardless of what a lawyer might say, the first step in rectifying having a child outside of marriage is seeking joint legal custody.

If a father lives with the mother, then the court will most likely simply rubber stamp the motion and then you are on your way to becoming a respected parent.

If the father does not live with the mother, then things can be a bit more problematic, however if you do your best to avoid conflict then you should be able to prevail.

If you don’t live with the mother you should also be requesting the court for a parenting plan, the days your child will be with you and the days the child will be with the other parent.

Be sure to have your own recommendation for a parenting plan and make sure it is one you can live with.

Once you have obtained joint legal custody and a reasonable parenting plan you may go to the next step, shared physical custody.

Be aware that even parents that have shared physical custody because they were married usually lose it when the courts get involved, so it is unlikely that an unmarried parent will get shared physical custody.

Shared physical custody is usually best for all involved; unfortunately our courts are not likely to act in the best interests of our children.

To summarize if you are a man and have children outside of a marriage the first thing you should do is seek shared legal custody, then a reasonable parenting plan and finally shared physical custody.