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3 Common questions unmarried fathers have about child custody

Child custody can be stressful no matter your situation. But unmarried fathers may have a particularly difficult time knowing what rights they are entitled to when seeking custody of their children.

Hopefully, answering the following three frequently asked questions will give you a better understanding of what your custody rights as an unmarried father are.

Which parent has custody rights?

In general, both parents technically have custody rights, even if they are unmarried. However, in the beginning of a case, before a court order says differently, the mother often has automatic sole physical and legal custody of your child. This is because courts generally don’t have to question who the biological mother of the child is.

However, this does not mean that you, the father, don’t have a right to seek custody of your child. Rest assured, you still have custody rights, even when you are not married to your child’s mother.

How can I get custody?

For unmarried fathers seeking custody in Minnesota, you must first establish paternity. A court must recognize you as a legal parent before any other proceedings can take place. This usually happens through a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) form. Filling out this informal document legally establishes you as your child’s father.

Once you establish your paternity with an ROP, it does not automatically grant you custody or parenting time. It does, however, give you the right to go to court to pursue parenting time and custody.

Should I hire a lawyer?

Even knowing the answers to these basic questions, there’s still so much information regarding unmarried fathers and child custody. The process of seeking parenting time or custody can be confusing and overwhelming, and often involves legal processes you may not fully understand.

Because the stakes are so high, it can be extremely beneficial to have a family law attorney at your side. You want to continue to be a part of your child’s life, and as an unmarried father, you should uphold and protect your rights to do so by seeking legal assistance. 

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