Fathers have the fundamental right to provide for their children’s care, custody, and management, but this right is not absolute. Children also have the right to a stable relationship with a person in a fatherly role. There are three primary ways for a father to establish paternity:
- Sign an Affirmation of Paternity. This is a voluntary acknowledgment by both parents that must be signed and notarized. This is used when the father is not married to the mother when the child was conceived and is forwarded to various state agencies, Child Support Enforcement, the Ohio Registrar, and the Ohio Department of Health.
- Ask your local child support agency to help you establish paternity.
- Ask an Ohio court to conduct a genetic test to determine paternity.
A voluntary acknowledgment or “affirmation” requires the signature of the biological mother. It provides the father with essential parental rights, including his name on the birth certificate, the right to a legal child-father relationship, custody and visitation rights, and the ability to provide the child with medical and social security benefits.
If the biological mother does not agree to sign the acknowledgment, or there is a dispute about the fatherhood of the child, a paternity action can be brought through social services or the local family court. In this case, the alleged father (or a person seeking to prove he is not the child’s father) will likely want to seek the assistance of a family law attorney.
Be aware if it is established you are the father and you are not married to the child’s mother, you will incur additional obligations regarding the child. They include paying continuing child support, possibly reimbursing the mother for pregnancy and/or hospital expenses, and providing your child with certain health benefits.
Father’s Rights in Divorce
In a divorce, the court must evaluate each custody case individually. In Ohio, custody and visitation decisions are based on the “best interests” of the child listed in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3109 (F)(4). There is no assumption that the mother will automatically have custody rights.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Deal with Issues Involving Father’s Rights?
When you are trying to prove paternity or show the court why you should be awarded custody or visitation rights, it is important to have a child custody lawyer on your side. Sometimes these issues become complicated, particularly if the child’s mother is resistant to having the biological father involved in the child’s life.
Slater & Zurz LLP law firm has several family lawyers experienced in handling these types of matters and would be pleased to meet with you and discuss your case in a free initial consultation. Contact 888.534.4850, ask for a family law attorney, and chat with a representative. You can also fill out a form on the website explaining the type of help you need and where to contact you.