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How does an unmarried father seek custody or visitation?

Family courts throughout the United States, including Kentucky, generally presume that children benefit from the involvement of both parents in their upbringing unless there is specific evidence to the contrary. This means that, as the biological father of a child, you have the right to seek custody or visitation after a split from the child's mother regardless of whether you and she were ever married. 

According to FindLaw, one of the first steps in making child custody or visitation arrangements is for you and the child's mother to negotiate a parental agreement. This can occur while another legal process related to the split is in motion or before it has begun. Either you or the child's mother may contest custody or visitation arrangements in court if you cannot agree to terms. However, many couples are able to resolve their differences outside of court via a process of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation.

The law presumes that you are the father of the child if you were married to the mother at the time of the child's birth. However, if you and the child's mother never married, you must legally establish paternity in order to access your parental rights. Cases in which paternity is uncertain or contested may require you to take a DNA test in order to establish your biological relationship with the offspring, but if there is no paternity dispute, this step is not necessary. An acknowledgment of paternity signed by you and the child's mother and filed to the appropriate authority should be sufficient. 

The courts may deny father's rights when there is a history of excessive drug or alcohol use or in cases of provable child abuse or neglect. The relationship between the child and the father also plays a part in the determination. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 

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