Central Ohio families come in all different shapes and sizes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 43 percent of children who were born in the states of Ohio in 2016 were born to unmarried parents. If you are an unmarried parent, you need to know how Ohio’s custody laws will affect your parental rights.
At the Lawrence Law Office, our dedicated Columbus, OH child custody lawyers have extensive experience representing unmarried parents in complex child custody and child visitation disputes. If you need legal guidance, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a fully private consultation.
Unmarried Parents: Paternity Must Be Established
If a married couple has a child in Ohio, both the husband and the wife are automatically granted full parental rights. There is an extremely important distinction between custody cases involving married parents and those involving unmarried parents. With a married couple, the husband is not required to ‘prove’ anything or sign anything to become the legal father of his wife’s child. He is assigned full parental rights and full parental responsibilities from the moment the child is born.
For unmarried couples, proactive measures must be taken to establish paternity. Otherwise, the man will have no rights or duties to the child. Under Ohio law (Ohio Revised Statute 3109.042) an unmarried mother automatically gets full rights and responsibilities for her child. For an unmarried man to get the same parental rights and responsibilities, he has two general options:
- Voluntary affidavit of paternity: If an unmarried mother and an unmarried father are both in agreement on paternity, then it is relatively easy for the man to establish his rights and responsibilities. The man will need to sign an affidavit of paternity, and the mother will be required to give her voluntary consent. It is imperative that this affidavit is properly completed and submitted as soon as possible after a child’s birth. The failure to do so could cause serious complications down the road.
- File a paternity lawsuit: If there is a dispute over paternity, legal action may be required. Disputed paternity cases often end in the courtroom. Under state law, both men and women have the right to file a paternity claim in an Ohio family law court. If the dispute persists, the court may eventually order genetic testing to determine whether or not the man is truly the father of the child.
Unmarried parents should keep in mind that paternity is extremely important. Indeed, it is the fundamental basis of parental rights and parental responsibility. Without a finding paternity, an Ohio father has no right to seek custody or visitation. Likewise, without proving paternity, an Ohio mother cannot collect the child support payments that she would otherwise be owed by the kid’s father. Paternity cases can be especially complex. With so much at stake, anyone involved in a paternity dispute should be represented by an experienced Columbus, OH paternity lawyer.
How a Columbus Child Custody Lawyer Can Help You
Once paternity is proven, child custody claims for unmarried people proceed in a similar manner as custody claims involving divorced parents. No matter the specific status of your case, you should always work with a dedicated child custody lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to make sure that your family law rights are fully protected.
Every family is different, and every child custody case deserves fully individualized attention. In some cases, the best path towards a successful resolution will be through collaborative negotiation or through child custody mediation. This is usually the best path towards resolution. When parents are able to work together, they may be able to craft the most effective and fair child custody and visitation agreements.
Of course, in some cases, Ohio parents do need to take their case to court to protect their custody rights. Our Columbus custody attorneys are always ready to fight aggressively to protect the rights of our clients.
Get Help From an Ohio Child Custody Attorney Today
At the Lawrence Law Office, we are proud to be strong advocates parents in Ohio. Our law firm has extensive experience representing unmarried parents in paternity actions and child custody claims. If you are an unmarried parent involved in a child custody dispute, we are standing by, ready to assist you.
For a fully confidential consultation, please contact our team today. With offices in Columbus and Delaware, we represent parents throughout Central Ohio, including in Franklin County, Delaware County, and Union County.