Some fathers in Indiana have an easier time remaining close to their children than others. A married father can generally trust that his name is on the birth certificate of his child and that he has a right to request shared custody during divorce proceedings or a legal separation.
Unmarried fathers theoretically have the same custody rights. However, they have to establish paternity before they can ask for visitation or shared custody. Couples that decide to have children together without marrying often handle the paternity acknowledgment right at the hospital. They cooperate to fill out paperwork together that allows the hospital to include the father on the birth certificate.
Other times, the mother does not want to acknowledge the father. There can be a variety of different motives behind a refusal to acknowledge paternity. Can an unmarried mother simply refuse to acknowledge a father as a way of denying him parental rights?
Voluntary acknowledgment isn’t the only option
The best family law outcomes usually follow parental cooperation. When parents work together for their children, they can achieve the best outcomes and preserve the most amicable relationship possible.
In a perfect world, unmarried mothers would readily acknowledge the fathers of their children by filling out voluntary paperwork at the hospital or while the child is still a minor. Unfortunately, in the real world, that is not what happens for many families. Tension in the relationship between the parents or pressure from other parties might lead to a mother refusing to acknowledge the father of her child.
While she can refuse to fill out voluntary paperwork, the father has other options. The Indiana family courts can order paternity testing. A genetic test performed using a swab from inside of someone’s cheek can establish with incredibly high rates of accuracy the parentage of a child.
A mother typically does not have the option of declining court-ordered testing even if she would prefer to maintain the mystery regarding who the father of the child actually is. Once a man establishes his paternity, he is no longer at the mercy of the mother’s wishes regarding visitation in custody. He may have more opportunities to see his child and to influence their upbringing.
Understanding that a man can establish paternity without a woman’s consent may help men make use of their legal parental rights in a high-conflict family situation in Indiana.