Pregnancy raises a number of important concerns for a woman, especially if her partner is absent or otherwise unwilling to participate in the parenting process. This document attempts to address a number of the most commonly asked legal questions about the father's responsibilities and rights.
Note: While this article attempts to address some of the most common questions raised by single mothers, it is not intended as a substitute for legal advice from a competent attorney.
Mothers have the option of putting "Unknown"
or "Refuse to State," in place of the father's name.
However, leaving his name off the birth certificate will not prevent
him from claiming his paternal rights. He may be able to have
his name added to the birth certificate.
To receive public assistance you will most likely be required to
provide the father's name as well as his last known address. The
authorities may then attempt to force him to make child support
payments to you. If you will not collect child support from him,
then you will probably not be eligible for public assistance.
You should immediately begin legal proceedings to establish the father-child relationship and determine a visitation schedule. This action can be taken before the child is born. The local District Attorney's office may help you with your paternity action even if you are not receiving public assistance, or you can find your own attorney.
If the father voluntarily signs a "Declaration of Paternity" form, his fatherhood is automatically assumed which will facilitate the collection of child support without the necessity of court proceedings. If the father denies paternity, a paternity test will be necessary. This involves taking a blood sample from the baby after it's born followed by genetic testing. You should be aware that, if you are awarded child support, the father will have a right to visit the child.
No. Child support and visitation are independent
rights of the child and are not contingent on each other. Even if
you were to actively interfere with the father's visitation rights,
he would still have a legal duty to pay child support. The reason
for this rule is that children should not be left without support
because of the misconduct of their parents. Also, since child
support and visitation are independent rights, both for the benefit
of the child, neither can be legally denied because of the illegal
behavior of a parent.
Yes, you may write up your own agreement but
neither a court nor the child are bound by it. Therefore, if one
of you breaches the agreement, the other parent cannot enforce
it. It is still a good idea to try to come up with an agreement
between the two of you and the father and then see if the court approves
it. The child, however, has independent rights to establish a
parent-child relationship with the father and to ensure the father's
support. Therefore, an agreement between you and the father does
not remove the child's rights. A child's parents have equal responsibility
to support their child in the best way possible. Equal responsibility
exists regardless of which parent the child is living with.
Even before the baby is born, the father should
begin the legal process in the form of a paternity action. Without
a court order, custody and visitation rights may be difficult
for him to establish. From the moment of conception, he should
hold himself out as the father and receive the child into his
home once he or she is born. In addition, he should help support
the child financially.
The mother, father and baby must be tested
either voluntarily or through a court order. The blood test can
tell whether the man is definitely not the father but cannot tell
whether he definitely is. Genetic testing is the only way to conclusively
prove that he is the father.
The father has no rights in regards to abortion,
even if you are married. This means that he cannot legally force
you to have an abortion if you do not want one.
Generally, the father has rights in regard
to the adoption of his child which include receiving notice of
the adoption and being given an opportunity to contest the adoption.
Source: Legal information adapted from "Father's Rights and Duties," by T. Glessner, NIFLA, 3(6),3-96.