I observed two family law attorneys discuss when an unwed father is able to exercise parental authority.
When a married woman has a child then by law both mommy and daddy have the exact legal authority over the child (well, actually Dad has more authority but I will save that for another discussion). If they split up, they still exercise equal authority until a court says otherwise. When an unwed mother has a child, by law, no father is placed on the birth certificate (unless Mom and dad both agree otherwise) and therefore Mom has all the legal authority.
I have always been taught that an unwed father can only assert parental authority over a child in two ways: 1) by court order; or 2) the mom consents to having the father placed on the birth certificate.
Two family law attorneys were arguing and one asserted that when a man signs an acknowledgement of paternity then he has as much right to the child even without being placed on the birth certificate (remember, Mom still has to consent to Dad being on the birth certificate or Dad has to go get a court order). Essentially, the attorney argued that once the Dad signs the acknowledgement then it was a matter of time before the birth certificate could be modified.
Support Enforcement often requires the parents to sign an acknowledgment before collecting child support. The Dad in turn has to take the acknowledgement to get a court order to be placed on the birth certificate (because moms don’t usually agree to amendments to the BC because it gives the Dad parental authority). GOING TO GET THE ORDER IS THE EXPENSIVE PART. This is the primary reason why so many unwed fathers don’t get more rights because they have to go to court to force themselves onto the birth certificate.
This is important because the attorney was suggesting that unwed fathers have equal rights to the child the moment that the acknowledgment is signed…..even without any further action in court. Many women sign the acknowledgment thinking that is what they have to do to get child support without giving Dad parental authority. Well, not according to at least one family law attorney. He says signing the acknowledgment grants a Dad the same right as being on the birth certificate….interestng. This would certainly be contrary to what virtually every unwed father is told when he is dragged into court for child support and told he has to adjudicate his legal rights to the child separately. I have always preached that when you go to court for child support to make sure you get the judge to order that you be placed on the BC. Though the attorney may be right, I think it is still safe to get added to the BC just in case. A BC with my name as Dad sure looks a lot more solid than an acknowledgment. to lay persons (like cops, principals at a school, etc.)