Child custody is a complicated situation whether you’re married or not. If you’re the father of a child and aren’t married to the mother, you’re in a precarious situation. You need to make sure you establish paternity, or you could have little or no right to see your child if you and the mother separate.

Paternity is established in one of two ways. The first is through voluntary declarations of paternity. You can sign this when your child is born at the hospital. If you aren’t sure if you’re the father, then you can file a paternity action and seek a DNA test.

Once it’s proven that you are the father of the child, you will need to determine a parenting plan. You and your ex can come up with this together or ask a court to do so for you. Either way, whatever you agree on will be the arrangement moving forward unless you seek changes through the court.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re married or not; once you have a parenting plan, both parties are obligated to go by the plan and obey the orders. If you don’t show up for visitation, that could be used against you. If your ex doesn’t allow you to see your child on your visitation days, that’s possibly something you could take to court.

These are a few things you need to know about paternity and your rights. Remember, even if you’re unmarried, you may still obtain and retain the rights of any biological parent and get visitation or custody rights to your child.

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