Do Unmarried Fathers Have The Same Rights As Married Dads?

Unmarried Fathers

Unmarried Fathers rights to custody and visitation are the same as they are for married fathers. Thanks to a new law that recently took effect in Oklahoma, unmarried fathers and mothers now have equal parental rights and obligations for a child born outside of a marriage relationship when a paternity acknowledgment is signed. Hospitals have the responsibility to help new parents understand the paternity form and give them an opportunity to sign it. The hospital is responsible for providing the original form to the Oklahoma Department of Health and copies to other state departments, including the Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement Division. Despite the absence of a marital relationship, the new parents including unmarried fathers have equal rights to their child as if they were married when the child is born.

Unmarried Fathers Rights in Oklahoma

After signing the paternity form at the hospital, new fathers who aren’t married to the child’s mother have rights and responsibilities toward the new child. Among these things that a new child’s father can do include:

  • Register the child for his health insurance plan
  • Enroll the child as his beneficiary for life insurance and Workers’ Compensation benefits that may become due if the child’s father is injured or killed at work.
  • Add the child to the father’s will or trust estate planning documents if they exist; if estate planning materials aren’t yet in place, every new father should consider creating them with qualified legal guidance; otherwise, the child will be able to inherit from their father by following the Oklahoma laws of intestacy that provide for people without estate plans in place.
  • Establish child custody and child support plans if the father is not going to be living with the child’s mother after the child is born

In addition to these benefits for the father, there are also vital rights and privileges that the child has when the child’s father has acknowledged paternity, including:

  • Legal acknowledgment of the father’s identity
  • Rights to emotional and financial support from both parents
  • Protection by being covered by medical insurance from both father and mother, if applicable
  • Future support of being eligible to receive children’s benefits under programs for veterans and through employment pensions or social security benefits and Workers’ Compensation coverage
  • Listing as a beneficiary on life insurance policies in the event of father’s death

Resolving Paternity And Custody Issues

The new law is in place to encourage new parents who aren’t married to agree to acknowledge the child’s paternity at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth. This allows the child and parents to know that the child’s father will take on the rights and responsibilities of parenthood even though he isn’t married to the child’s mother. 

The reasons for this legal change in Oklahoma are the likelihood that questions of a child’s paternity often come up many months or years later when legal rights must be resolved. In the past, neither a scientific test of paternity nor an agreement with the child’s mother about who the father was, was adequate to establish paternity–only a properly completed paternity form in court could satisfy the legal requirement. Now, the question of paternity is easy to resolve at the time of birth, with both parents signing and acknowledging the paternity form presented by the hospital and then filed with the state. The courts involvement is more limited to entering a custody order for unmarried fathers and mothers so that custody and visitation can go forward in the event of problems.

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Tulsa Paternity Attorneys Near You

The legal issues surrounding paternity and the rights of an unmarried father to have custody and a say in their child’s life can be complicated and full of legal jargon. An experienced Tulsa paternity and child custody attorney will guide unmarried fathers through understanding their rights and responsibilities for their new child. Call Kania Law Office at 918-743-2233 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.

Tulsa's Local Family Lawyers

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