If a child is born to a married mother, the father is presumed to be the mother’s husband. While either the mother or the father can challenge this presumption in court, the presumption nonetheless stands unless proven otherwise. However, if the mother is not married to the father the mother is considered to be the sole custodian of the child. In order to establish rights to the child, the father must establish their paternity in a court of law.
In some cases, a father can establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit. This presumes that the mother wants the father to establish his paternity. In other cases, the father can establish his paternity through a genetic test.
It is important to understand, however, that establishing paternity alone does not give the father custody or visitation rights to the child. Even paying child support does not entitle a father to visitation time. In order to establish these rights to the child, the father must petition the court for custody, shared parenting time, or visitation rights to the child.