At one time, it was rare in Ohio and other states for a child to be born to an unwed mother. Today, however, this is an increasingly common situation. In fact, about 40 percent of children in the United States are born to parents who are not married, a jump of nearly 20 percent since 2007. With instances where a father isn't listed on the birth certificate, further legal questions arise.
Most custody laws are still based on the assumption that a child's parents are legally married at birth. But when a father is not listed on a birth certificate and shows no interest in being a part of a child's life, some mothers have concerns about officially seeking sole custody. For instance, an unwed mother might wonder if filing for custody could cause an absent dad to suddenly demand joint custody or seek visitation.
Some states automatically grant a single, unwed mother initial custody instead of sole custody. Other states presume the mother has sole custody when she is unwed and a father's name is not on the birth certificate. However, if circumstances change and a man is able to prove paternity, the father is typically given an equal opportunity to seek a mutually acceptable custody arrangement that's in the best interest of the child. In order for a father's name to be added later to a birth certificate, paternity must be established.
Regardless of whether a single, unmarried parent is the dad or mother, a child custody attorney can take appropriate legal steps. If the other parent has no desire to be involved, this might involve legally filing for sole custody to avoid unexpected issues later. If joint custody is desired, a lawyer may first request that a maternity or paternity test be performed before attempting to work out arrangements with custody, parenting time, and visitation.