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Your right to visitation and custody as an unmarried father

7954114_s.jpgNot all relationships work out, but sometimes they result in a child being born. Just because you're not in the other parent's life, that doesn't mean you have to miss those important milestones as your child grows up.

Studies show that children tend to be better adjusted when they have both parents in their lives. This is why you should make it a point to establish your paternity of your child.

Virtually every biological parent has a legal right to custody and/or visitation with their child. A mom or dad doesn't need to have been married at the time that their child was conceived to have a right to custody. Courts consider what's in the best interest of the child, which generally entails having both parents in the picture unless there's a history of violence or serious mental health or substance abuse issues.

Any father that wishes to gain visitation and custody rights must first establish their paternity. There are many ways that they can do this. They can do so by undergoing deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. Both parents can also sign a paternity affidavit and file it with the court. A father qualifies to pursue custody and visitation rights the moment that they successfully establish their paternity.

Some parents are successful in working out a visitation schedule and including that information in a parenting plan themselves. There are instances in which a child's parents don't get along well enough to broker a deal, though. It's in situations like this that parents often petition a judge to intervene and issue a court order for visitation or custody.

Judges rarely grant sole custody to a child's unmarried father if the child is already being raised by their mother. Fathers who'd like to gain sole custody in such instances generally have to prove that their child's mother is unfit to be their primary caregiver because they have a history of drug problems, domestic violence, criminal activity or neglect.

If you're a father trying to gain custody or visitation rights with your child, an experienced attorney can walk you through the process of establishing paternity and help you build a persuasive case for why you should be a more present force in your child's life.

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