How to secure your rights as a child’s father?

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How to secure your rights as a child’s father?

My son and his girlfriend are expecting a child and because both are still covered under their father’s health insurance,’ it is my understanding his girlfriends father will be the baby’s legal guardian. My concern is for my son’s legal rights as the baby’s father should all this go south. We have no idea if his name will be included on the birth certificate. I’m thinking it should be but because of the insurance issues I’m not sure it can be. What should he do to protect his rights as the father? What is the process for him to become the legal guardian of his child down the road?

Asked on December 19, 2011 under Family Law, Michigan

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for your question regarding the rights of a child’s father born to an unmarried couple.  Your dilemma, as described, is unfortunately very common, and your son’s rights will vary depending on the state in which you reside.  When couples are married and a child is born, the husband is presumed to be the father of the baby.  Since the husband is presumed to be the father, he gets all of the legal rights that go along with the presumption of fatherhood.  However, when a couple is not married, this presumption does not exist, and men often have to unfortunately fight long and difficult legal battles to obtain legal rights to their children. 

As for the grandfather having rights to the child, that will depend on the state you live in.  There are some states in which grandparents really have no rights, and some states that grandparents have visitation rights, and some states that give grandparents more rights. 

As for your son, he would need to petition the court for legal rights to the child.  He would need to demonstrate that he had a reason to believe that the child was his, and then the court would likely order a paternity test.  Once the paternity test shows that the child is biologically his, then the court will define child custody and child support.  However, this will not be as difficult if she puts his name on the birth certificate.  It would benefit her to put his name on the birth certificate, because if she does not put his name on the birth certificate, she can not require him to live up to his legal obligations such as paying child support, having regular visitation, and paying for health insurance.

If you need further assistance, you may find it helpful to contact a family law attorney in your area.

 


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