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How can an unmarried father ensure visitation rights?

When a Pennsylvania resident fathers a child out of wedlock, he may wonder if he has any rights toward that child. In fact, he does indeed have the right to pursue a relationship with his child, but he may need to take steps to assert and protect this right.

Because he is not married to the mother, the law does not automatically presume a relationship between him and the child. He will need to establish paternity by signing an affidavit and filing it with the appropriate agency. In Pennsylvania, this is the Department of Public Welfare. If the child's mother supports the claim to paternity, there is no need for a DNA test.

A man can also request custody or visitation rights. Ideally, he and the child's mother will agree on terms of custody, visitation and child support. If they are unable to come to an agreement, he may have several options, including seeking out mediation or even going to court to ask a judge to decide his case.

It should be noted that it is unusual for an unmarried father to receive sole physical custody of his child if that child has been living with the mother. However, there are situations in which a child's mother has significant problems, and thus it could be in the best interests of the child to be raised by someone else.

With the assistance of his family law attorney, a father may be able to persuade a court that he should be able to receive custody and raise his child on his own. Since all child custody cases are different, the foregoing should not be construed as constituting legal advice.

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