It is becoming more and more common today to see single parents. The stigma that was previously associated with having a child out-of-wedlock is rapidly falling away, and unmarried parents are not unusual. In the best situation, the couple remains together and raises the child in one happy home. This is not always the case, however, and just as with marriage, sometimes the relationship falls apart. Fathers of children born out-of-wedlock should be aware of their rights and responsibilities with regard to their children.
Fathers of children born out-of-wedlock have just as many rights and responsibilities as fathers of children born during a marriage. That is to say, all biological fathers have the same starting point – they have parental rights. Unmarried fathers should be cautious of the rumors that they are somehow at a disadvantage when it comes to custody, as this is untrue. Child custody and visitation decisions are made by a court based on the best interest of the child. These factors in no way include whether the father and the mother were married, or even whether they were ever involved in a serious relationship. An unmarried father is just as able to petition a court for visitation or even custody as a married father.
Unmarried fathers should also be aware that it is important to establish a “status quo” as soon as possible following the separation. This means that when a separation has happened or is at least imminent, an unmarried father should prepare to file a petition to establish appropriate visitation as soon as possible. The longer an unmarried father waits and allows the mother to set the terms of visitation or even deny visitation, the more difficult it will be for him to establish a more favorable visitation schedule. California code 3046 does provide that a court may take into account that where one parent relocates from the residence and the relocation was short, during which the parent tried to maintain reasonable contact, the absence from the residence will not be held against the relocating parent. Moreover, the same provision states the court may take into account the other parent’s attempts to interfere with visitation. In other words, an unmarried father should not be afraid to move out of the shared residence, as that is not “abandonment,” so long as he is attempting to maintain contact. Nevertheless, the father should still contact an attorney and file for visits as soon as possible.
We have extensive experience in helping clients in cases where the parents were never married to each other. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 for a consultation to talk about solutions for your children and your case.