In your state, can a father still have the rights to his child in unmarried cases?

When you cross state lines a lot can change. Not only will you be faced with differing amounts of food tax, you’ll also face different laws for paternal rights. We reached out to some legal experts to find out what rights unmarried fathers have in their states. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
Lauren Blair

Lauren Blair

Lauren Blair is a lawyer with She has over 25 years of experience in family law.

Illinois Parentage Act

In Illinois, and most – if not all – states, fathers have parental rights even if unmarried. The rights of unmarried fathers are outlined in the Illinois Parentage Act.

To secure parental rights, fathers must first legally establish that they are the father of the child in question through a paternity action. The paternity of unwed fathers can be established in two ways under the Illinois Parentage Act.

One way to legally establish paternity is by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage, also known as a VAP, after the child’s birth.

Unless a VAP is formally withdrawn within 60 days, it conclusively determines paternity and can only be challenged on the grounds of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact by filing a verified petition with the court.

The second way to prove fatherhood is by DNA testing. DNA testing can establish the likelihood of biological paternity with a 99.9% probability rate.

Whether paternity is acknowledged by a VAP or established by DNA testing, it creates certain legal rights for the father. They include the right to visitation times and to make decisions about important matters, like education, religion, and healthcare.

Depending on the amount of parenting time a father has and several other statutory factors, he could even be entitled to receive child support.

Paternity also creates serious legal responsibilities for fathers. The primary responsibility is to support the child financially, so courts will enter child support orders in conjunction with petitions to establish paternity.

Illinois law has effective methods for enforcing child support orders. Failure to pay child support will result in serious consequences, including wage garnishment, property seizure, tax refunds, suspension of a driver’s license, suspension of a business license, and jail.

In addition to paying monthly child support, unmarried fathers may be required to obtain health insurance for the child. Oftentimes, courts also require the support-paying parent to obtain a life insurance policy in a reasonable amount designed to cover child support obligations in the event the payer parent dies.

New York’s and New Jersey’s Rights of Parents

Irrespective of whether children were born of a marriage, fathers have a constitutional right to parent their children. In New York and New Jersey, legal and physical custody, parenting time, and visitation are decided based on what is in the children’s best interests.

That is a very vague, amorphous, undefined standard, but several factors must be considered and weighed in deciding what is best for the children, including their ages and preferences, the parents’ cooperation with one another, whether there is any history of substantiated domestic or child abuse, the stability of the home environments, the quality and continuity of the children’s educations, the willingness and ability of the parents to act as parents, and the geographic proximity of the parents’ homes to one another.

Rajeh A. Saadeh

Rajeh A. Saadeh

Lena Nguyen

Lena Nguyen

Lena Nguyen, Family Law/Divorce Lawyer at Law Office of Lena Nguyen.

Father’s Rights to His Child in Texas

Yes, fathers can still have the right to their children in unmarried cases. The presumption in Texas is that appointing the parents of the child as it is in the best interests of the kid to have joint managing conservators. Neither parent can be favored based on gender.

Texas uses the “best interest of the child” test to determine conservatorship, visitation, and support of the child. “Best interest of the child” includes, but is not limited to factors such as emotional and physical needs of the child, parenting abilities of the parent, stability of the parent’s home environment, desires of the child, plan the parent has for the child, previous bad acts of the parent, history of domestic violence, and history of child abuse.

Parents are Given Equal Precedence in New York

Both parents are given equal precedence in New York, and unmarried fathers largely have the same access rights that they would if the parents were married.

However, to claim those rights, sometimes paternity has to be proved. Doing so can drag out an access case for far longer than necessary as that sole provision can, and does, determine every other facet of access.

Michael Rose

Michael Rose

Michael Rose, Founding Partner at Hach & Rose.
Ross Jurewitz

Ross Jurewitz

Ross Jurewitz is a nationally recognized personal injury attorney and the founding member of the Jurewitz Law Group.

A Legally Binding Agreement is Needed in California

Despite the stereotypical laid-back perception of California, the law concerning unmarried fathers and rights to their children are straightforward. They don’t have any right to see or spend time with their children at all.

Unless both parents have a legally binding agreement, any informal arrangements or agreements made between the parents aren’t legally binding or applicable.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.