Parents have a right to see their child and spend time with him or her, but matters may be more complicated if the parents of a child are unmarried. In a lot of cases, unmarried parents will try to ‘make it work’ so to speak, with some even moving in together. If the parents decide not to pursue a relationship, they may agree to share custody or give the non-custodial parent visitation rights. However, even with these verbal agreements in place, it is often very helpful to speak with an attorney to obtain a court order that dictates the terms of the child custody agreement. One small fight between parents may blow up to the extent that the non-custodial parent’s ability to see his or her child is put in jeopardy.
If you’re a father, know that you are not given automatically the right to see the child in California. Even if you have worked out an arrangement with the mother of the child where you will see the child on weekends or holiday, or if you’re living with the mother and the child, it is often in your best interest to obtain a formal custody agreement so that your rights are protected down the road. Things may seem peachy now, but they can turn in an instant. Make sure you’re protected in such a case.
You hear a lot about ‘deadbeat dads’ who may fall behind on child support for whatever reason, but you don’t hear a lot about fathers fighting for custody or visitation rights in a system that may not seem fair to them. There are plenty of cases of mothers who do not want anything to do with a child’s father who will deny him the right to see the child just to get him out of her life. The good news is that fathers may fight for their custody rights, but must obtain a court order to ensure that their right to see their child is protected. Whenever there is an issue of custody—whether looking to obtain custody or visitation, or when the custodial parent has violated the order—it is a good idea to speak with an attorney.
When the court determines the custody of a child whose parents are not married, it may be difficult for a father to win custody over the mother unless she is deemed an unfit one. However, fighting for visitation rights is often well worth it.