For parents that have a child while married and then divorce, both parents have equal rights to either custody or visitation of the child by law and dependent on the court’s decision. However, for unwed couples that have children who then uncouple, the laws on the matter are quite different. While not being married saves quite a bit on not having to go through the divorce process, when it comes to visitation of any children, the father will need to put in some effort in order to legally see their child.
Essentially, obtaining visitation as an unwed father means that you have to actually seek it out. There was no divorce process that would include visitation, and this means that the father must go to court if the mother of their child is not allowing visitation. The first step to this is declaring paternity. This includes the relatively simple case of filing a paternity action, in which the father declares legal paternity to the courts. This process can be skipped if the father is already named on the birth certificate as this serves as legal paternity already.
By default, the mother of a child that resulted from an unwed couple will always have custody. If the mother is fit, then obtaining custody of the child as the father is often very difficult. Only in cases where the mother is using illegal substances or can be proven neglectful will the court’s award custody to the father who is seeking it.
The courts always work in the best interest of the child, and often this means keeping custody with the mother if at all possible. However, the best interests of a child also means that it should have a relationship with both parents if possible. While as an unwed father you may not get custody, though you can file for joint custody, often the courts will be very open to allowing visitation.
Once paternity of the child has been established, a visitation schedule will be set by the courts. They can also allow for more customized scheduled set by the couple, proving that both parties agree to it. These visitation schedules are often determined by a number of factors that are, again, in the best interest of the child. This means that as the paternal father, if you moved far away from the mother, you may have less visitation days than if you lived close by. Living far away is a major determining factor as travel can not only disrupt the mother’s schedule, but it can disrupt the child’s school schedule as well if they have to get on a plane and fly to another state every other weekend.
What to Do if the Mother Denies Visitation?
If you were awarded visitation of a child by the courts, the mother has a responsibility to see that out. If you have visitation rights and they are not carried out in due diligence, you still have options available to you. If a mother denies visitation, the father can then file a show-cause motion against them. This is basically taking her in front of a court to explain why she is not following the schedule. If the reason is not a legally valid excuse, the mother can be held in contempt of court.
Are you seeking visitation of a child? Is your spouse not following your visitation schedule? Let us help. Contact us today to see what we can do to make sure that your visitation rights and legal rights as a father are not impeded. Let the cumulative knowledge of family law at Beckman Steen & Lungstrom work for you.