Single Mothers have “full custody” of their children at birth by statute, entitled to all decision-making for the child. Fathers who are not married to their child’s mother when their child is born have no automatic legal rights pertaining to their child under Ohio law. With the proper legal motions and court orders, however, fathers of children born outside of a marriage can gain the right to access school, daycare, and medical records, the right to have time with their child according to a regular, legally-enforceable schedule or even the right to primary custody of their child, and the right, generally speaking, to make decisions about their child’s medical care, schooling, and activities. This is a two-step process.

First, paternity must be established by the courts or through an administrative determination by the Child Support Enforcement Agency or by an Acknowledgement of Paternity in the proper county. Once paternity is established, the father has parental duties to support a child.

Second, the father must file motions with the court to get parenting time and other parental rights regarding their child. Just paying child support or having paternity established is not enough to entitle the father to any parental rights. When a court determines the allocation of parental rights for never-married parents, it is not a change of custody process, and Mothers and Fathers stand on the same legal footing.

The first step, establishing paternity, can be accomplished in several ways. First, paternity can be established by having the parents sign an affidavit that acknowledges paternity, which can only happen within 30 days of the child’s birth and with the mother’s consent. Paternity also can be established through the CSEA as an administrative order after a DNA test is conducted through that agency (not just by a private company or lab) upon the mother’s request for services through the CSEA, the government’s request (if the mother is receiving public assistance), or the father’s request. Parents can also agree to waive genetic tests and agree that he is Father.

The final way paternity can be established is by court order following a motion to establish parentage and allocate parental rights and responsibilities. The court must, at the time parentage is established, also make an order for parenting time (visitation) and the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities (custody). The CSEA, even if there is an administrative order establishing paternity, cannot order a parenting time schedule or give the father the legal right to see his child.

The attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, have the knowledge and skills to navigate through these steps on your behalf so you can obtain the rights and parenting time you are entitled to under the law. The sooner you contact our office and begin the process of establishing paternity, the more favorable the results are likely to be for you as a single dad.

PLEASE NOTE: If the mother of your child is married to another man, there is a legal presumption that the mother’s husband is the father of your child. You have a very short period of time after the child is born to contest this presumption by initiating an action in court for the establishment of paternity, have an official DNA test done, and secure parental rights and parenting time between yourself and your child. Contact the attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC as soon as possible to preserve your rights as the biological father of your child.