While divorce is pretty straightforward concerning child custody rights, more and more parents have opted to forgo marriage altogether. When these couples decide to separate, therefore, some men have anxiety about whether or not they’ll be able to keep seeing their kids despite a lack of divorce court proceedings.

The simplest way to ensure staying in your child’s life is to establish parentage. While married couples have the advantage of the law assuming a child born to those two parents is the “legitimate” child of those two parents, unmarried couples have no such privilege. A mother’s parentage is guaranteed by virtue of being the person who gave birth to the child; however, as a father, you must voluntarily sign a declaration stating you are the biological parent of the child. A court can also make the determination if you go to court to determine parentage. Once parentage is established, you assume full rights and responsibilities involving your child, including seeking custody, visitation, and paying child support.

If you don’t get this declaration before the separation of you and the child’s mother, you must rely on a court order to obtain the legal right to be the parent of your child. This can be tough as the law is often unfair in its treatment of unmarried fathers in general. You need a court order to obtain the legal right to see your child. Without this type of order, you have no right to see your child and any informal agreements you had with the mother could be changed at any time. You may be required to pay child support without ever having the right to see your child through visitation or by shared custody.

Likewise, a court will not consider the time an unmarried father spends with his child as valid unless there are existing court orders regarding visitation or custody. Without these orders, the court will set the time-share between father and child at 0%, which will be used to set child support at maximum level.

If you find yourself in this type of situation, make sure you protect your rights. Talk to one of our San Diego family law attorneys at The Edmunds Law Firm. We are one of the foremost family law firms in San Diego County, and we have been helping people in the area with their family law issues for more than 40 years. We understand that your future and the future of your family is on the line. Let us help you through this difficult situation. Talk to us about your situation in a free case consultation. Contact us at 800.481.2526 or fill out our online form to speak to us today.