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Can unmarried fathers seek visitation rights?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Family Law

Becoming a father is a profound moment that forever changes your life. For unmarried fathers, this joy comes with uncertainty about their role and rights in their child’s life. They fear that they might miss precious moments of their child’s growth and development, simply because they are not married to the child’s mother. Still, they can petition for visitation rights to be present in the child’s life.

Establishing paternity

Before an unmarried father can seek custody or visitation rights in New York, he must establish paternity. This is crucial as it legally recognizes him as the father and is the first step in securing visitation rights. Fathers can establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or later.

Filing for visitation

After establishing paternity, the father can petition for visitation rights in family court.

  • Preparing and filing the petition: This document should include your information, the child’s information, details about the established paternity, and a statement explaining your relationship with the child and why you seek visitation rights. You must file the petition with the Family Court in the child’s county.
  • Serve the papers: After filing, you must serve the petition and a summons to the child’s mother or current legal guardian. You must follow the court’s rules for service of process, usually by a third party not involved in the case.
  • Attend the court hearing: The court will schedule a hearing. Both parties will have the opportunity to present their case. As the petitioner, you should show evidence supporting your request for visitation, such as your involvement in the child’s life and your ability to provide a stable environment during visits.
  • Court decision: The judge will then decide based on the child’s best interests. Factors considered include the child’s welfare, the emotional and physical environment the father offers, the father’s past conduct, and any other relevant factors.

If the court grants visitation rights, you must adhere to the schedule and conditions set by the court. If you face issues with the visitation schedule later, you may need to return to court to request a modification of the order.

What happens after a request is denied?

If the mother denies your request for visitation, it is essential to address this through legal channels rather than informal agreements. You may seek legal professionals who can help you exercise your rights as a father and protect your child’s best interests.