Unmarried dads in California and elsewhere face a lot of challenges in the family law system, and it is not easy for an unwed father to claim his parental rights before paternity has been established. There are a few basic elements that are important for unwed fathers to know that may make the process run more smoothly.
Signing a birth certificate as a father is not dispositive of the issue of paternity, which status can only be determined by a court. Without a court order, the father does not have any legal parental rights, although he may still be required to pay child support.
If the mother of the child files for any kind of government assistance such as Medicaid or SNAP benefits, the application will require her to disclose the identity of the father. If she fails to do so, she may lose her eligibility. If she does so, the state will usually initiate an action against the father in order to determine whether he is contributing to the child’s support.
Being ordered to pay child support has nothing to do with a father’s parental rights. It does not automatically confer visitation privileges on the father. These rights must be specifically awarded by the court. Credit for any support payments made prior to an order requiring support will be given assuming proper documentation is presented.
An unwed father who has concerns or questions about the scope of his parental rights may wish to speak with an attorney who has experience in family law matters. The attorney may be able to suggest methods pursuant to which the father may request and be granted visitation rights.
Source: ABC, “Five important things that unwed fathers need to know“, Yvette Harrell, October 08, 2013