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Differences in parental rights for unmarried parents in New York

For many divorcing New York couples, child custody is their number one legal concern. Child custody and visitation rights may get even more complicated and difficult, however, for unmarried parents. And while many studies have attempted to demonstrate the benefits of parenting time and parental involvement from both the mother and the father, it's sadly often the father who suffers a lack of parental legal rights.

Most states have laws naming the mother of the child as the primary caregiver in cases where a child has been born to an unmarried woman. These rights can generally only be taken away in instances where the mother has been demonstrated to be an unfit parent or if she has abandoned the child. Conversely, the unmarried father may only be recognized as a legal parent if his name is on the child's birth certificate or in the case of a successful petition for custodial rights.

This typically means that only the mother has any and all legal rights to make decisions regarding the child's medical care, education and any visitation, be it with the child's father or other relatives. Often, even after DNA testing to determine paternity, and even if the father is making child support payments, unmarried fathers may not automatically be granted rights to visitation. Unmarried fathers may need to demonstrate to a court their desire to be a part of their child's life and show precedence that they have tried to be an involved parent up to that point.

Unfortunately, the rights of unmarried fathers are typically inferior to those of unmarried mothers. In cases involving unmarried parents, if a New York father feels that his parental rights are not being respected or even if he simply desires more parenting time with his child, a family law attorney may be able to help. A lawyer could offer counsel on seeking visitation or child custody modifications.

Source: reference.com, "What are some facts about an unmarried mother's child custody rights?", Accessed on Jan. 20, 2017

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