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Unmarried fathers should fight for their rights

When a man becomes a father, the absence of a government-issued marriage license doesn't mean that he loves his little baby any less. However, it often does mean that securing a legal right to parent will involve more than it would for a married father. Yet, unmarried fathers should fight for their rights because their children need them. Unmarried fathers, including those in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, can get joint or sole child custody if they are both willing to work for it and hire the right attorney.

The first step is legally establishing paternity. That can be done by both the father and the mother signing an acknowledgement of paternity and then filing it with the appropriate court or state agency. It should be done at the time of the baby's birth or as soon thereafter as possible.

In some cases, paternity may be disputed. In those cases, a legal process that includes DNA testing will commence. When the process concludes, the court will issue an order stating that the man is or is not the father of the baby. If the man who had the DNA testing done is the father, he then has legal standing to pursue child custody or visitation. In some states, a man who believes that he is the father of a baby can file for recognition of paternity and child custody or visitation simultaneously.

Some unmarried parents, though not living together, voluntarily develop a parenting plan together. Such plans typically outline who their daughter or son will be with during specific periods. The plans can also establish how the parents will approach the making of decisions about the child's education, religion and health care. It can also address how changes to the agreement will be made in the future if the parents want them.

If the parents can't agree on a parenting plan, they will need to go to court. In those cases, unmarried fathers need to carefully research their rights, document the time that they have spent taking care of their child and secure an experienced attorney.

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