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What steps can an unwed fathers take to gain access to his child?

According to 2014 data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of all U.S. births are to unmarried mothers. In an October blog post, we discussed how an unwed mother is automatically granted sole primary and legal custody of a child. This is true even in cases where the child's mother and father are in a committed relationship and living together.

Being a parent is one of the most important and rewarding roles any woman or man can take on. Yet many unwed fathers, who want to parent and have taken steps to establish paternity, continue to experience problems and barriers related to child custody and visitation.

Much like divorced parents, for a child's sake, unwed parents must find a way to get along and effectively communicate. When possible, it's best when unwed parents are able to work out details of a parenting plan on their own. However, in some cases, parents simply aren't able to come to an agreement about custody or visitation matters. In contentious child custody cases, parents may choose to go to court where a family law judge will determine custody issues and devise a parenting plan and visitation schedule.

Once the terms of a custody agreement and parenting plan have been established, a formal court order is entered. Court orders are legally binding meaning a parent's custody rights may be in jeopardy if he or she violates the terms of a child custody agreement or parenting and visitation plan.

When it comes to child custody matters, there are times when a parent may choose to petition for a change to an existing agreement or plan. In some cases, both parents may agree to the change which would then be officially entered by the court. In other cases, the matter may be contested at which time a family law judge would weigh in and issue a final order.

Every child has the right to have a relationship with both of his or her biological parents. Ft. Lauderdale fathers, who are dealing with issues related to child custody and visitation rights, would be wise to discuss their case with an attorney who handles family law matters.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Child Visitation, Child Custody and Unmarried Fathers," 2014

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