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How some unmarried Pennsylvania fathers obtain shared custody

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Child Custody

Parents in Pennsylvania want what is best for their children. They also want to be part of their lives. So long as parents remain married or continue to cohabitate, having plenty of time with the children is simple to achieve.

Once parents separate or divorce, the matter becomes much more complex. Married fathers who divorce can generally anticipate automatic custody proceedings in their case. The courts generally require that they divide parental rights and responsibilities with their spouse. Unmarried fathers do not have the benefit of automatic custody proceedings after a breakup. How can a father who never married the mother of his children obtain parenting time in Pennsylvania?

Establishing paternity

The first step toward securing shared parental rights is to ensure that the state recognizes someone as a parent. Mothers and married fathers have automatic parental rights. Unmarried fathers have to establish paternity. Some men establish paternity shortly after the birth of a child by filling out voluntary paperwork at the hospital. Provided that the mother of the child acknowledges someone as the father, there are documents that can quickly and easily add his name to the birth certificate.

This process can occur right after the birth of the child or at any time while they are still a minor. If the mother does not acknowledge the father or refuses to cooperate, then he may need to request paternity testing from the Pennsylvania family courts. Once the state recognizes a man as the father of a child, he can then make use of his parental rights.

Requesting shared custody

A man who has established paternity has the same theoretical rights as a married father or a mother. He can ask for an allocation of parenting time and also for legal custody or decision-making authority. Even if the mother does not want to share parenting time with him, the courts typically try to act in the child’s best interests, and that often entails helping preserve both parental relationships.

Although it may take a few extra steps, unmarried fathers can enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other parents in Pennsylvania. Taking the time to legally establish paternity is worth the effort as it can potentially benefit everyone in the family in the long run.