What Rights Does an Unmarried Father Have Regarding Paternity and Visitation in Oklahoma?

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Is Paternity Important to Establish?

Many fathers in Oklahoma have concerns regarding protecting their parental rights, including visitation. If you are not married to the mother, you may need to gain the right to visitation in court. Surprisingly, these rights are not granted to unmarried fathers automatically.

Does an Acknowledgement of Paternity Grant Child Visitation Rights?

After the birth of a child, the two parents can sign a form in front of a witness called an “Acknowledgement of Paternity,” usually at the birthplace of the child, whether a hospital or birthing center. The two parents can also complete the form later and submit it by mail. The form is forwarded to the Division of Vital Records when signed and witnessed at the hospital or birthing center. However, this is just the first step in establishing, and potentially protecting, your rights as a father – but it does not grant you visitation rights.

What are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

As a father, you have both rights and responsibilities under the law. Establishing paternity provides benefits to fathers, including:

  • The opportunity to give your child your last name;
  • The ability to add your child to your health insurance;
  • Allows your child to inherit your estate when you pass away;
  • QEstablishes your basic parental rights and responsibilities.

What if the mother disputes that are the father of a child?

A mother may refuse to sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity form. She may be married, planning to get married, in a new relationship, or may not believe you are the father. You may not have discovered you had a child until years after birth. In these cases, it may be necessary for a judge to issue an order for genetic testing to prove you are the biological father of a child. This process can be supported with help from a family law attorney.

Does establishing paternity guarantee visitation rights?

Unfortunately, establishing paternity does not automatically award a father visitation or custody rights. Visitation rights must be requested through the court, typically requiring the assistance of an Oklahoma family law attorney.

Can an Acknowledgment of Paternity be Rescinded?

The form can be rescinded within 60 days of a child’s birth by filling out a form called “Rescission of Acknowledgment of Paternity.” Should this occur after the 60-day period, the matter must be resolved in a judicial proceeding.

Can the Mother Refuse to Allow You to Visit Your Child?

If you are not married to the mother of your child, she has the right to make all decisions regarding visitation, even after an Acknowledgment of Paternity has been filed. You will need the help of an attorney familiar with Oklahoma law to help you seek a Visitation Order through the court system.

Do I Need a Court Order to Visit My Child?

You and your child’s mother can agree on a visitation and parenting plan without court intervention. An agreement made between the two of you may be better than what a court order will require, as you have agreed based on what you believe is best for your child and your schedules. However, an agreement does not have the same enforceability as a court order.

What is the Legal Process?

As a father, you have the right to seek visitation rights. If you and the child’s mother have been unable to work out visitation on your own, you will need to seek a Visitation Order in court. This process involves filing specific forms, along with court appearances. If paternity is contested, the first step is court-ordered DNA testing. Once parentage is confirmed, another court filing and an appearance will be scheduled for the court to make a decision regarding visitation rights.

What Type of Visitation Is Granted by the Court?

Visitation orders vary from case to case. The amount of time granted is dependent on “the best interests of the child.” The law regarding visitation, that is time spent with the child, is moving toward equal access or 50/50 splits; yet, that is not a guaranteed result. The courts must also consider issues such as domestic violence, work schedules, and parental abilities in making a visitation determination.

What Happens if the Mother Wants to Move?

When a Visitation Order is in place, both parents should notify each other of any residence changes. However, if the primary residence of the child is going to change by 75 miles or more, then the relocation provisions of 43 O.S. § 112.3 MUST be followed.

Can More Visitation Be Granted?

The usual arrangement is only the minimum. Working out a better schedule between the two parents can customize a parenting plan to suit the two parents, which can lead to a better outcome for the parents and the child.

What Type of Visitation Will Be Granted When the Father Lives in Another State?

Court order visitation rights for a parent who lives out of state are decided on a case-by-case basis, which may include a more extended visit during summer vacation, spring break, four-day weekends, or other longer breaks from school.

Can Court-Ordered Visitation be Denied by the Mother of a Child?

Oklahoma law allows the mother to withhold visitation only if she reasonably believes, in good faith, the child will be in danger when visiting the father’s home. The types of dangers considered reasonable could be drug use in the child’s presence. Withholding visitation is not a minor matter; if it involves false accusations, it can lead to legal consequences for the mother. Family and Children’s Services provides support to parents, including parenting classes and family counseling.

What if the Mother Won’t Allow Me to Visit My Child?

If you have a Visitation Order and the mother will not allow visitation, she can face legal trouble, such as Contempt of Court or enforcement actions. If you are in this position, seek the help of an attorney to help you take action.

Reach Out To Us For Assistance in Seeking Visitation Rights

If you seek visitation rights or custody of your child, our family law attorney at Parsons, Graham & Day in Tulsa offers professional counsel and support. Our family law attorney can discuss your situation and advise you on how to best move forward. We support fathers’ rights and can help you pursue visitation rights through the court system. Contact us at 918-307-1529 to discuss your case.

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