Every parent with a child in Indiana has certain legal responsibilities and also certain rights. Parents must provide for the basic needs of their children and also have a profound influence on the lives they lead. Technically, fathers and mothers have the same legal rights under state law, although fathers sometimes need to make a little extra effort to assert those rights.
Specifically, unmarried fathers in Indiana may need to take special action to make use of their rights to time with their child and to have a say in the major decisions about their upbringing. What does the state require from unmarried fathers who want to play a parental role in the life of a child?
Unmarried fathers must establish paternity
For a father in Indiana to have a right to spend time with their child or assert authority over their education, healthcare and religious observances, the state will need to recognize him as the father. Married fathers have automatic protection because the state assumes that they are the father of any child born to their wife.
Unmarried fathers need to establish paternity so that the state recognizes their role in the life of the child. Frequently, an unmarried father can cooperate with the mother of the child to fill out voluntary paperwork at the hospital after the birth of the child. That way, they will be on the birth certificate from the earliest days. Other times, the parents can jointly fill out cooperative paperwork to add the father’s name to the birth certificate later.
In scenarios where there are questions about the identity of the father or where the mother refuses to acknowledge the father, it may be necessary to undergo genetic testing to validate a father’s relationship with the child. Successful genetic testing would allow a man to add his name to the birth certificate and then to seek custody or visitation rights.
Although there may be an extra step involved, unmarried fathers theoretically have the same rights and protections as any other parent in Indiana. Understanding how to make use of one’s parental rights may benefit those who have a child and who wish to play an active role in that child’s life.