If you are an unmarried mother of a minor child in St. Tammany Parish, you may wonder whether or not the father of your child has visitation rights. In most cases, allowing the father to have visitation is the right thing to do. However, there are exceptions to this.
Most states have enacted child custody laws that make an unmarried mother the sole legal custodian of their children. This is true regardless of whether or not the father’s name appears on the birth certificate. Some states grant unmarried parents joint custody unless one parent specifically files a petition in court to request sole custody.
Research on child development suggests that children do best when they have a strong relationship with both parents, whether the parents are married, single or divorced. Your communication with the other parent can go a long way toward fostering co-parenting.
Sometimes it is not appropriate to share custody with another parent. If there is a history of abuse or neglect of the child or a high level of conflict between parents, shared custody may not be the healthiest option. There are alternatives to joint custody, including supervised visitation at a neutral location and graduated visitation.
Graduated visitation can work well if a minor child has not seen the other parent for a long period of time so the parent and child can reestablish their relationship.
Establishing a written agreement for child custody and visitation can help reduce a lot of tension when co-parenting. It can also help establish a consistent routine for the child.
If you refuse to offer visitation with your child’s father or if he refuses to pay child support, either parent can file a paternity lawsuit. A paternity action establishes a father’s legal rights. A court order may specifically order visitation and child support after the court rules he is the biological father. Either parent can request a DNA test if the identity of the child’s biological father is in dispute.
An attorney might be able to help you file a paternity action. When you can’t work with the other parent on issues like custody, visitation and support, sometimes this is the best option.