It is becoming increasingly common in Ohio and in other states for children to be born to unwed parents. Across the United States, approximately 40 percent of children are born to unwed parents compared to 17 percent in 2007. In many cases, the father's name is not on the birth certificate. This can create questions for parents regarding custody issues.
A birth certificate is a record of a child's birth but does not establish paternity. In some states, it is presumed that the mother has sole custody if the parents were unmarried at the time the child was born; in other states, the mother is presumed only to have initial custody.
To establish paternity when a father's name is not on the birth certificate, a petition will need to be filed in the state court where the parties reside. A court can then issue an order establishing paternity and determining issues regarding child custody and visitation.
A family law attorney may be able to assist parents who have questions about custody of a child born out of wedlock. In some cases, either parent may wish to demand proof of paternity and request a DNA test. It may be possible for the parties to acknowledge paternity by signing a document without requesting DNA testing. A court order is required to establish paternity even if the father's name appears on the birth certificate and the parents have signed an acknowledgement of paternity.
An attorney may be especially helpful for parents who are trying to gain sole custody of their child. After paternity is established, a judge will consider factors regarding the child's best interest. An attorney may be able to assist clients by highlighting evidence that portrays the parent as the most fit individual to take care of the child.