If you’re an unmarried father in Pennsylvania, you have the legal right to ask for parenting time. Depending on your situation, you may be pursuing a shared custody arrangement or visitation time. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, family courts will go on the assumption that your involvement in your child’s life is in their best interest.
The first step you should take to pursue father’s rights is to prove that you are the biological father of your child. Proof of paternity may be in the form of a signed acknowledgement of paternity or a DNA test.
While an acknowledgement of paternity is theoretically the simplest proof to get, it requires the willing participation of your child’s mother. If communication has broken down between you and her, then petitioning the court for a DNA test will be your best option for proving paternity.
Create a parenting agreement
Once you have legally established that you are the biological father of your child, you have the option to negotiate a parenting agreement with your child’s mother. You may do this privately or with help from a mediator. A parenting agreement will cover the parenting schedule and all aspects of parental decision-making. A few of the subjects that might be covered on a parenting plan are:
- Health care
A parenting agreement should be a written document signed by both parents. As your child grows up and circumstances change in everyone’s lives, the parenting agreement will likely need to be reworked from time to time.
Petition for a court order
Even if you are able to create a parenting agreement without going to court, it’s a good idea to ask a judge to sign off on it. Having a legal court order for your parenting agreement may prevent your child’s mother from modifying the agreement in the future.
If you haven’t been able to work out a parenting agreement outside of court, you may petition the court for a hearing. A judge will then make a decision on visitation and custody issues.