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What are my visitation and custody rights as a father?

Maybe the mother of your child isn’t letting you see your child. Or perhaps you’d just like to legally declare paternity in case you separate from your partner one day. Thankfully, in Pennsylvania, unmarried fathers have every right to raise and spend time with their children.

Since there is a little extra work and paperwork involved to secure your rights, a family law attorney can help defend your right to provide for your children. This can begin with confirming you are the biological father. Then, from there, a judge can award custody and visitation rights in a court hearing.

Acknowledgement of paternity

Securing your rights as the father of your child begins with legally confirming paternity. In the state of Pennsylvania, you can achieve this by filling out an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) form and submitting it to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

It’s also worth noting that even if you are bedside during the birth of your child, without a legal marriage arrangement, your name won’t be on your child’s birth certificate. But, if you would like your name added to the birth certificate, then you can request an updated version after filing an AOP.

Custody and visitation rights

After establishing that you’re indeed the biological father of your children, you may achieve custody and visitation rights. If you are on good terms or still in a relationship with the mother of your children, you might be able to work out an agreement without going to court.

But, if the mother of your child is keeping your child from you or not letting your child spend an equal amount of time with you, then legal action is the route you will want to take.

Ahead of your court date, you and your child’s other parent can devise a parenting plan for the judge to consider. Parenting plans usually outline physical and custody decisions and a visitation schedule. But, if your child’s mother is unwilling to draft a plan, then a judge will grant a custody and visitation arrangement that they believe will help your child best meet their physical and emotional needs.

Although going through the legal process can take a little extra time and effort, it will allow you to be present for your children both now and for many years to come.



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