There is a saying I learned from a fellow lawyer that I often quote, likely even on other blog posts I’ve done: “If you sit on your rights, you stand to lose them.” Truer words were never spoken when stated in the context of an unmarried father protecting his parental rights and filing a paternity petition with a court.
Why would an unmarried father want to preserve his by filing a paternity petition with a court? I suggest a few LEGAL reasons here, and look forward to reply comments from readers on other reasons.
1. A biological father wants to be the father to the child he has helped create. This father must usually be willing to support the mother by being responsible for “a fair and resonable amount of the expenses incurred in connection with the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s birth,” as well as willing to be responsible for ongoing child support. For specific requirements and obligations, you need to check your state’s specific parentage or paternity statute.
2. A biological father wants to exercise parent-time/visitation with his biological child, but the mother will not voluntarily allow the biological father contact with the child. Sometimes an unmarried mother will declare the biological father to the state child support enforcement/collection agency in order to begin receiving financial support from the state. The state will then seek out the purported father to establish paternity and seek appropriate reimbursement from the biological father for the financial assistance the mother is receiving from the state. However, just because paternity is established by the state for child support purposes doesn’t mean that the father’s rights to contact with the child have been established and are enforceable, and the state child support enforcement agency doesn’t care about the father’s contact with the child, their job is just to collect support. The biological father needs a court order setting forth his rights to contact with the child so that those contact rights can be enforced and exercised.
3. A biological father doesn’t want to be ambushed by the mother or the state at a bad time to start owing support or have a huge support obligation appear from the past. Sometimes a biological father will do nothing to assert his rights, either because he is unaware that a child was actually conceived with the mother or the mother and biological father separated and lost contact with each other. Either way, a biological father may not want this past to come haunting him when he least expects it, causing difficulties in his current financial and personal situation.
The above are just some of the reasons that an unwed father may not want to “sit on his rights” and “stand to lose them.”
Please comment, add, refute, clarify or inquire regarding this posting if you are so inclined. I would love for this to convert to a helpful dialogue and resource.