We are often asked something to the effect of “The unmarried mother of our baby can leave town and I have no legal say in the matter?” It may surprise many San Diego residents to learn that more than half of the children born in the United States today come into a family with unmarried parents. The norms have changed, and couples are tending to live together before entering into marriage. This presents an important legal challenge for the unmarried fathers of children born in San Diego, as a recent urgent call shows:
“What do you mean unmarried mother of our baby can leave town and I have no legal say in the matter? I’m on the birth certificate! She won’t even let me see my own child.”
Believe us, we understand the shock and frustration. California family law does not necessarily reflect many of today’s realities. From a legal perspective a baby born to unmarried parents does not provide equal physical and legal custody to each parent. Here in California all legal custody and parenting time legal rights remain with the mother.
Legally speaking this means the mother has all of the legal power to make decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, religious practices, education and the physical custody rights to move as she pleases and take the child with her.
The unmarried father has no legal right to visit or spend time with his child or to prevent the mother from moving out of the area with the child unless he asserts his rights before the Court in a legal proceeding known as “Paternity.” It doesn’t matter what forms you filled out in the hospital. The father must obtain orders from the court specifically addressing child custody and parenting time.
Child support is a separate issue. Presently there is no relationship between the payment of child support and automatic custody rights here in California. This only adds fuel to the fire for an unmarried father.
The answer in this case is quite simple, but urgent. Contact the experienced Certified Family Law Specialists at Burke & Domercq immediately. We can seek an urgent audience with the court asking for a short term order prohibiting the move and asking the court. We will help you to complete the steps necessary to establish paternity and seek appropriate child custody and parenting time orders.
Physical paternity is established through DNA testing which is usually accomplished with a painless swab of the inside of the cheek of the father and the child. Once paternity is established the court will consider the requests of the father, and absent extreme issues such as domestic violence, restraining orders, alcohol or drug addiction or criminal behavior issue appropriate custody orders.