What Are Unmarried Fathers' Rights in Ohio?

What Are Unmarried Fathers' Rights in Ohio?
July 20, 2022

More often than not, it is vital for a child to have access to both parents in order to feel loved, valued, and grounded. However, if a family unit is not tied by the bonds of marriage, legal statutes may limit fathers’ custody and visitation rights. According to the CDC, over 40% of children in Ohio are born to unmarried parents, so this is an everyday issue for many families.

At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, we understand how important it is for fathers and children to maintain a strong, healthy relationship. As a child custody attorney in Ohio, it is our goal to help unmarried fathers facilitate legal means to spend time with their children.

Custody and Visitation Rights: Married vs Unmarried Fathers

At the heart of the differences between the rights of married and unmarried fathers is paternity. When a heterosexual married couple has a child, the law assumes that the husband is also the father. His full parental rights are naturally intact. From the moment his child is born, a married father has both physical and legal custody rights, and these can continue even after divorce.

The situation is quite different for unmarried fathers. Nothing is assumed, and paternity (or parentage) must be proven for him to maintain both custody and visitation rights. Unmarried mothers prove their parentage by birthing their child, but unmarried fathers will need to take the necessary steps to prove their claim.

How To Establish Paternity

The easiest way to establish paternity is for the unmarried parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity soon after their child’s birth. This will require that the two parents agree on parentage. If a party does not agree with the father’s claim to paternity, they can file a paternity claim in an Ohio family law court or request through the local Child Support Enforcement Agency for a genetic test to be done. 

The results of a paternity test are conclusive and can put any objections to rest. If the unmarried father is proven true in his claims, he can then request a court order to both establish and enforce his parental rights. These could include both custody and visitation. It is important to note that, while unmarried fathers should be helping to support their children, that child support alone does not legally entitle them to visitation and custody rights. This claim has to be clinically proven or agreed to by the child’s mother.

Since the act of establishing paternity does not, in itself, provide legal rights to an unmarried father, it is vital that he also consults with an experienced child custody attorney. This skilled professional can help an unmarried father who is not in a relationship with his child’s mother to develop a parenting plan with her so that all his rights and responsibilities are down in writing. These could include visitation, pick-up and drop-off schedules, and any unique arrangements, like extended family visits, extracurricular activities, parental dating, vacations, and more. 

A Child Custody Attorney Helping Unmarried Fathers in Ohio

Child custody in Ohio can be a difficult path to forge for unmarried fathers. The law does not automatically give unmarried fathers any rights, and yet their relationship with their child is so very impactful. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, we know how important it is for you to maintain custody and visitation rights, and so we urge you to get in touch with us. If you are still awaiting your child’s arrival we can work together to implement a plan that will go into effect as soon as your child is born. If your child is already several years old, we can help you to establish your paternity and exercise your rights as a father. 

Reach out today for a confidential consultation if you’d like our experienced child custody attorney to weigh in on your situation. We’re ready to help you reclaim your rights.