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Understanding your parental rights as an unmarried father

On Behalf of | May 4, 2023 | Firm News

Children whose fathers take an active role in their lives tend to develop into more emotionally stable adults. However, when an unmarried mother and father break up in North Carolina, the mother has the strongest legal claim to custody. If your ex denies you access to your child, you may need to take steps to establish paternity in order to maintain your relationship with them.

Ways to establish paternity

Paternity automatically applies when a child is born to married parents. On the other hand, unmarried fathers must take additional steps to establish themselves as the child’s legal parent. In North Carolina, a putative father—a man believed to be the father of a child born out of wedlock—may establish paternity any time before the child turns 18.

There are three ways to establish paternity:

  1. Marriage between the biological mother and father

A putative father, a man believed to be the father of a child born out of wedlock, may become the child’s legal father by marrying the biological mother. If you choose this route, you will not need to take further legal action.

  1. Affidavit of parentage

An affidavit of parentage is a legally binding form that parents usually sign upon the birth of the child. However, an unmarried couple may voluntarily sign the affidavit to establish the putative father as the legal father later on.

Before you are recognized as the child’s father, you and your child’s mother must sign the form. This may be difficult to achieve if you and the biological mother are not on good terms.

  1. Paternity action

For unmarried fathers who are unable to marry their ex or whose ex-partner refuses to cooperate, a paternity action may be your only option. Paternity actions are often the last option since they involve filing a civil action, court hearings, and other time-consuming and costly processes. However, if your ex denies paternity, going this route and conducting genetic testing may help erase any doubts and establish you as the father.

It is heartbreaking to be denied the opportunity to love and care for your child. Sometimes taking legal action is the only way. Fighting for parental rights can be difficult, but having a family law attorney on your side can relieve some stress.