How Unwed Fathers Get Custody

family law

When making decisions about custody of children, California law has different views on married and unmarried couples. The following information details what unwed fathers should know exercising their rights to have frequent and continuing contact with their children.


First, let’s examine how California courts view each parent. As you will learn, there is a stark contrast between the two.


California Courts and Fathers


According to California’s law on custody of unmarried parents and children, unless you establish the legal parent-child relationship (paternity), you, as an unmarried father, have no rights to your child.


This is because the law presumes that married parents are the legitimate parents of the child. But it’s a different matter entirely for unmarried parents trying to figure out the child’s custody.


What’s more, it is not enough to list your name on the child’s birth certificate. On the contrary, you must first establish legal paternity to exercise your right to see your child and make decisions about his or her happiness.


Furthermore, if legal paternity is established, you can take action in court to prevent the child’s mother moving away with your child. But if paternity isn’t established, no matter how much you object, your child’s mother may move away or even deny your visitation rights.


However, please note that if you can prove that your child’s mother is not suitable for raising him or her or that you have served as the child’s primary caregiver, the court may grant you sole custody of the child.


California Courts and Mothers


When it comes to the custody of the children of unmarried couples in California, the law explains that unmarried mothers automatically obtain custody of their children when they are born. Moreover, unmarried mothers usually don’t have to take any legal actions to maintain their custody.


However, as an unwed father, and depending on the situation, you can bring a lawsuit to the court to exercise your rights as a father.


Mothers who raise their children are responsible for their care, as well as for deciding his or her education, living arrangements, and providing medical care. Without an order from the court establishing parantage , your child’s mother can dictate how much contact you have with your child.


What You Need to Do to Get Custody


Based on what you just read, you might think that obtaining custody are slim. However, unmarried fathers can establish a parent-child relationship between a child (or children) and unmarried parents through a Parentage case filed under the Uniform Parentage Act..


The first step that an unwed father needs to take when obtaining guardianship or visiting his children is to file a paternity action in court.


However, the ultimate results of a paternity action in court relies on many factors considered by the judge. Most notable being the child’s existing relationship with the father, and whether there are any parenting concerns raised in court.


These aspects play an essential role in the judge’s decision on the case and if the father is awarded the result he wants.


File a Paternity Suit


When the unmarried dad files a paternity action, he requests that the court let him have shared custody of the child. This centers on the belief that it’s best for children to have a relationship with both parents.


Furthermore, this petition grants the father the right to ask for legal custody, physical custody, or both. After submitting the petition, the dad needs to properly serve the child’s mom with notice that there has been a petition submitted.


Make a Case for Custody


As a father, you may need to hire a lawyer to help you establish your custody claim. If you have any fears or provide evidence that the mother isn’t raising your child properly, it is crucial that you inform your lawyer of this information.
Such facts include any cases of abuse or negligence filed with child protection services, arrests for driving with impaired, alcohol or drug abuse or other proof of misconduct. In the event that the mom is a good parent, the father still has a right to frequent and continuing contact with the child.


Based on the nature of your claim and any evidence provided, the judge then makes a decision on your application. The father’s visitation or custody request is then approved or denied, or both parties come to a compromise.
It is important to understand that any determination regarding child custody is temporary. You will have a chance to modify or change the child custody arrangement based on the changing circumstances of your child.


Call the Law Office of Eric Andrew Mercer


Dealing with family law issues can be an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, Eric is here to protect your parental rights and ensure that you are awarded the time with your child that you deserve.


And although laws are unbiased, their interpretation and application may not seem so in court. To make matters worse, men are often painted in a bad light by mothers, making it difficult for them to get custody of their children.
Many fathers soon realize that mothers may not play fair in court. Sadly, this often turns out to be true, often blindsiding unsuspecting fathers in the process.


When fathers aren’t adequately prepared, it can result in a poor outcome in court. You don’t have to be a victim of such practices. With the Law Office of Eric Andrew Mercer in Sacramento, California on your side, you stand a fighting chance of establishing custody of your child.


Eric knows how to convey the importance of children having their fathers so that they are afforded a fair upbringing. He will work hard to make sure that your rights are valued and heard in court.


If you are ready to discuss your child’s custody with Eric, call or schedule an appointment for your free consultation.

About the author 

Eric Mercer

Eric Mercer is the owner and primary attorney at the Law Office of Eric Andrew Mercer based in Sacramento, California, but represents clients all over California. He started his legal career as a patent litigator at an intellectual property law firm in Palo Alto, California. He formed his own law firm in 2009, where his practice includes family law, consumer law, and personal injury. His family law practice focuses on parents’ custody rights and support. His consumer practice focuses on individual and class action litigation involving mortgage loan servicing, foreclosure avoidance options, mortgage origination, foreclosure rescue scams, automobile fraud, and unfair debt collection. His personal injury practice focuses on bicycle and motorcycle accidents. He is experienced in California and federal courts through all phases of litigation, trial and appeal.

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