Many unmarried parents want clarification about their legal rights regarding custody of their newborn child. With knowledge and preparation, you can protect your parental rights and ensure a fair say in your child’s upbringing.

What Are My Parental Rights as An Unmarried Parent in New York?

In New York State, married fathers and mothers share equal rights to custody and visitation of their children. No parent is considered superior to the other. However, when you are unmarried, custody of the newborn child by default falls to the mother. But what does this mean for each party? What if the father wants to establish rights? What if the mother does not want to give up custody?

Navigating the Parental Rights of Fathers

When a child is born to unmarried parents, paternity must be established before the father has any legal rights or responsibilities to the child. If you are an unmarried father who wants to ensure your relationship with your child, it is essential to establish paternity as soon as possible. Establishing paternity gives you the legal right to seek custody and visitation of your child and ensures that you can be financially responsible for your child’s support.

The easiest way to establish paternity is at the hospital through an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This can also be done afterward by agreement. If this is not done, either parent may file a petition for paternity. A paternity test will be ordered if parents decide to go this route. If you are determined by the court to be the biological father, you may then legally file petitions for custody, child support, and visitation.

Navigating the Parental Rights of Mothers

Unmarried Mothers are automatically given sole custody of the newborn child. If a mother consents upon the birth of the child paternity can be assigned to a father with the Acknowledgment of Paternity. This must be signed by the father to be a valid legal document. This is necessary for a father to proceed with custody and visitation matters just as it is necessary for any child support application.

If the parents can’t agree as to parentage, either parent may proceed to court to have paternity decided.

After a father establishes paternity, he has a right to a relationship with the child. But this relationship, unless agreed to by the parties, can only be enforced once paternity has been established. The Court will decide all outstanding issues regarding custody, visitation, and child support.

Resources for Help and Information

With careful planning and preparation, unmarried couples can ensure custody, access arrangements, and support while protecting their parental rights. If you are unmarried and expecting a newborn, consult with an experienced family law attorney today.