When two people who are not married have a child, both parents could want custody. California courts generally believe that a child should have a relationship with both parents, and judges make decisions based on the best interests of a child. If parents do not share custody, then the noncustodial parent may want visitation rights.
To assume the rights and responsibilities that go with having a child, an unmarried father must first establish paternity. If both parents agree about paternity, they can sign and file the necessary acknowledgement documents when a child is born or afterwards. When disputes arise, legal proceedings could occur that result in a court order that establishes paternity. To find out who a child’s father is, DNA testing may take place. A father might request custody or visitation rights when filing to acknowledge paternity.
If parents can form a custody agreement together, they can ask a judge to approve their plan. Creating a court order for custody or visitation means that this arrangement is enforceable by law. This gives either parent a legal remedy in the event that the other parent stops abiding by it. If parents cannot reach an agreement, then a judge makes determinations instead. The judge’s ruling also becomes an enforceable court order.
When dealing with child custody matters, an attorney’s assistance could be useful. A parent who is seeking custody may wish to consider what is reasonably possible in order to reach an agreement without needing litigation. For example, a father is not likely to gain sole custody of a child who is already being raised by the mother unless she is unfit. When both parents are fit, it makes more sense to attempt a joint custody arrangement.