Last Updated on 10/21/2021

How Unwed Fathers Get Child Custody
Establishing paternity is the first step in getting custody

What Unwed Fathers Should Know About Gaining Custody

Many fathers who are not or were never married to their child’s mother may think the likelihood of them obtaining custody is slim to none. The truth is unwed fathers can gain custody of their children through the filing a parentage action. Each state has its own laws and statutes regarding this, but in many states, it is called a Complaint to Establish Paternity, a Petition to Establish a Father-Child Relationship, a Petition for Paternity, or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, (all of these are just different names for a paternity lawsuit filed to prove that someone is the legal and biological father of a child). Petitioning the court for a paternity suit is the first step unwed fathers need to take to obtain custody or visitation with their children.

The outcome of the paternity suit, however, is not based on a procedure but more on many factors that a judge considers throughout the case. Judges look at a wide array of factors, most notably the relationship the father has with the child and any parenting concerns the father has regarding how the child’s mother is caring for or raising him or her. These factors play a major role in how the judge decides the case and whether the father gets the outcome he desires.

Filing a Paternity Suit

When an unwed father files a paternity suit, he is petitioning the court to provide him with access to his child, which is based on the idea that contact with both parents is within the child’s best interests. In this petition, the father can request custody, visitation, or both, but it is important to note that custody and visitation are not the same thing. Once the petition has been filed with the court, the father needs to ensure that the child’s mother is served with a notice that a petition has been filed.

Making a Custody Case

Fathers will want to hire an attorney to help build their custody case. If fathers have any concerns or evidence that the mother is improperly parenting the child, it is important they inform their attorney of these facts, including reports of neglect, any cases with child protective service agencies, or evidence of unfit behavior. If the mother does not have any negative parenting attributes, the father may want to consider petitioning the court for visitation / parenting time as a backup plan. If a father has been denied parenting time with his child, depending on how long the absence has been, a father might look at setting a long-term goal of obtaining custody. This long term goal might involve first establishing paternity while obtaining as much overnight parenting time as possible, and then preparing to file a follow up motion or petition with the court (a year or two later) to modify that parenting plan and make the father the primary residential parent. This requires strategic planning and a father must be at his best at all times – even a small slip-up can derail this plan.

The Custody Decision

Depending on the circumstances of the case and the evidence presented, the judge decides on the father’s petition. The father’s request for custody or visitation will either be granted, denied, or some compromise will be made between both parties. It is important to know there is no such thing as a “final decree” when it comes to child custody issues – there is always an opportunity to have child custody agreements modified or changed depending on the circumstances of the case.

When the judge makes a decision on custody related matters, a father should expect that he and the mother will both be testifying under oath and that the judge will be relying on numerous factors that are presented in the form of evidence to the court. This might be report cards, letters from counselors, or even the advice of a court-appointed child representative (a lawyer that represents minor children). The judge will base their decision on what is in the best interests of the children, not necessarily based on what a child or either parent wants. Getting started on the path to getting parenting time or custody of your child means first establishing paternity – and an experienced child custody lawyer is likely the first and most important step to take for your family.

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55 thoughts on “How Unwed Fathers Get Child Custody”

  1. Hello. It really is sad of how many fathers have a hard time to have their own child in their lives. I have a son is going through a situation where we just need guidance on the right step. He has a daughter who was born on 02/22/2022 and was never married to the mother of his child but they were living together throughout her pregnancy between my house and her parents’ home and moved into their own apartment on 01/15/2022 (Orange County – Florida) which is under my son’s name as she has not been working. Recently on 3/11/2022 she moved out of the apartment to move back with her mom (in Volusia County – Florida) because they were having issues and stated she just need to be away for the weekend and left with their daughter. It has been than just a weekend and was never allowed to have his own daughter for overnight and was only allowed to visit when she had time for just an hour or 2. On 03/24 she was arrested for Felony Domestic Violence (aggravated battery with a deadly weapon) with no contact. This was because when my son went to visit his daughter, he stated that he wanted to take his daughter until Sunday, and she flipped out and this was the result. My son had his daughter from Thurs to Sun. Thought he did tell his unwed partner’s mother that he wanted the baby until Sunday and the grandparent was okay with it. But when he was released on ROR the following day she went to his apartment with the cops, and he was luckily at my house we knew about this because the grandmother texted me about this. On Sunday he returned his daughter back to her mother in hopes that he would still be allowed to have his daughter overnight. Since 03/27/2022 he has not been able to see his daughter. Now the case has been dropped because my son did not want to move forward because he does not want the mother of his daughter to struggle. But now the mother refuse to allow him to have her at all. They keep saying they need time or that she is scared or to take them to court but is it just unfair. He was been the only main provider for his daughter, he is the only one working the only one with a driver license with his own car and was taking care of the baby full time when the mother was in recover after birth and now, he feels as if his daughter was ripped away from his life. What can he do?

  2. I am seeking advice on getting my 6 year old daughter who was abandoned by her mother along with 4 other children when she decided to leave to another city its almost been a month now she had been gone she has c.p.s cases in the past recent drug charges she got evicted from section 8 home for the major mess she had outside and inside the home my daughter had been now has begun to do things that a 6 year old should not even know about her 11 year old sister is sexually active and asks for money to older men to play mine crafts I fear for my daughter safety but I moved to Texas because of my job and my daughter is in yuma az I really need help please

    1. Nicholas Baker

      You need to file an emergency motion for custody immediately. If you are in Texas and the mom abandoned your daughter in Arizona, who is your daughter living with? If she is not living with you, you need to file an emergency motion in Arizona court and ask for emergency custody and emergency relocation to Texas.
      Once in Texas, you will likely need a Texas attorney that can file to have the entire case moved there by having it enrolled (since you and her now will be living in Texas).
      Act fast – any slowness on your part will be perceived by the courts as you not caring enough to move heaven and earth to get her – this means getting a loan, selling your car, whatever you have to do to make it happen ASAP.

  3. Okay so here I go lol , my husband and I are married he has a son and I have a daughter and we share one daughter together 3 kids total . He raised my daughter and I helped raise his son . His sons mother won’t allow him to do picks up drops off nothing with his son we have to go to his mothers house to see his son . She claims he’s a dead beat and etc but she told us we need to have our own stuff for him at our house in which we did then she said we need to get him stuff for her house because he’s not here often because he lives with her okay cool once I gave birth to my second daughter I found out they were having an affair , she sent me everything being spiteful text pictures she had sent him . Me and my husband worked through that she had people in her family messaging me her friends . Made his family dislike me thinking I was the problem when it was her anyways my husband wants to be able to take his son so we can do things as a family and it’s not fair he’s not allowed to be apart of our family fun days and etc because of his bitter mother he wasn’t at the baby shower wasn’t at the wedding nothing and that’s unfair .

  4. Dianne Hernandez

    My son and his girlfriend are expecting a baby, the mother lives over over 300miles away. They originally had a plan to be together and that changed when the he was given the ultimatum of living with her and her parents or not being together at all. He has provided options to live there or here on their own, which she is not willing to do. Her mother so far as to tell scare her by telling her a story about her aunt who did the same thing and her boyfriend committed suicide. My son has tried to be as involved as she lets him be, he is unable to relocate there due to work and school and had hoped that she would live with us until he can reasonably relocate and finish school. Every time she agrees her mother scares her and they are back at square one. Now he is being told that he can’t be in the hospital at birth and won’t be allowed to take the baby. He can only see the baby there. This is very sad. She lives in a city known as top 3 for crime. It’s not safe to even walk alone without being bullied. Since my son found out he is going to be a father he has taken dad camp, cpr and infant care classes on his own so he could be ready to be a good father. Recently through a consultation an attorney told him he would have to move there in order to have any visitation rights at all. He feels defeated. All he wants is to at the very least bring his son home once a month for a week until he can purchase a home closer to his son.

  5. I’m truly sorry for what everyone is going through and their frustration as well. My husband and I are going through the same thing that everyone is going through. With his (ex) whom has their two sons, since they both ended their relationship in 2014. After their break up she filed for child support. And has been raising their two sons and her other 2 baby’s on State help. Yes, my husband does his part by paying his child suupport faithfully and on time and then sum.. But lately hes been hearing a lot of negative things that has been happening to his son’s. I understand we need hard evidence but like the saying is, “He say she say”. My husband has always been apart of his two sons lives from day one. But since me and him moved to another state. His only contact with his son’s are through his mom since she resides in the same state as his boys. Due to his (ex) has blocked him from calling her on her phone and changes her number a lot, due to not being able to pay for her phone services. She also has blocked him from social media like IG or FB. What breaks my heart too, is she doesn’t even let his sons call my husband to wish him a happy birthday, happy thanksgiving, merry christmas, happy fathers day or happy new years. But he makes an effort to reach out to them, even though she never does reply back. There is so many things that this lady does wrong to my husband when all hes worried about is his sons, and he’s tired. Even though he has apologized to her, about their past, she has never acknowledge his apology. But today 06/2020 my husband had an disturb phone call from his mom regarding his two sons. That made him (now)wants to fight for his rights to get custody of them. My husband has been working ever since we’ve moved here to Nevada, back in 2016. We do have our own place up here in Las Vegas, as too where the (ex) doesn’t. His sons and (ex) along with their half siblings resides in an 1 Bedroom 1 Bath apartment/home with (6) others. They do have electric and running cold water from the last we knew. Food wise very seldom and we have no clue to why! Cause she does collect snap benefits, enough to feed the babies, right, So with that being said do you think he needs a lawyer to assist him in this matter. Or can he just get assitance through legal aid, which we were advise to do, by one of my family member. Please let me know and what is your thoughts. Thank you

    1. Nicholas Baker

      This is an awful situation. Whenever a parent needs to fight to enforce the rights to parent their child, the courts need to be involved in substantial ways. this may mean having a guardian ad litem or child representative appointed to evaluate what is in the child’s best interests. That is the standard for how a court decides which parent should have what amount of time with a child.

      If he is looking for a significant change to get his father’s rights enforced, he needs a lawyer, and legal aid will not work. Typically, legal aid will either not be involved in cases like his for matters like this, or they have too many cases and are often inexperienced lawyers just out of law school.

      He needs an experienced fathers rights lawyer or he will have little chance to get the results he deserves. Don’t wait, get started right away or the courts will view waiting as a negative against him!

  6. My son was date a girl for a couple of months and she got pregnant. He had made it very clear to her that he didn’t want any kids and she agreed that she would take the morning after pill. She changed her mind and is now pregnant and keeping the baby. I told him he needs to first find out if the baby is actually his. Needless to say my son is beyond angry, even though he understands that he should have been more responsible and not trust someone he knew for a short time. They texted a few time back and forth, not the nicest texts. She threatened that he would never see the child. She is 20 years old and lives with her parents. She does not have a job. He stopped texting, just to calm down and now is texting to check on her but she will not respond. She lives a few hours away from him. What rights does my son have and if she does not put his name on the birth certificate will he still be responsible to pay child support to her?

  7. Hello I have two children by someone with whom I’m paying child support and I see my children on a regular basis, but the mother is not in a position to be the custodial parent she has 2 other children as well and she lives with her mother who has 8 other people living their as well. The house is pretty big but I’m pretty sure they are sleeping in the living room (No proof just assumption) At my house the kids have their own room etc. And we recently come across her old cell phone that my 6 year old son had the shows she has been selling cocaine and has sugar daddies and a video of her smoking weed. How do I go about trying to get custody of my children??

    1. This is the type of situation that on its face, sounds like a slam dunk to modify custody – unfortunately it doesn’t quite work that way.
      That being said, it sounds like you have some serious evidence of some very serious allegations to bring to the courts attention.
      This needs to be done in a very organized and cautious manner to get the judge to listen to the facts, the evidence, and hopefully make a modification of custody happen. Working with an experienced child custody lawyer is key here, but here are the initial things you should do to begin the process.
      First, understand that the courts use a process of determining “the best interests of the child” in making their child custody determination. What does this mean? It varies from state to state, but it primarily means that the judge will look at a variety of different elements and apply them to this individual case and make a decision what he or she believes to be what is best for the child (ie. in the child’s best interests).

      The main elements are:
      1. the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
      2. the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time;
      3. the amount of time each parent spent performing care-taking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth;
      4. any prior agreement between the parents;
      5. the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
      6. the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
      7. the mental and physical health of all individuals;
      8. the distance between the parents’ residences;
      9. abuse, or physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent against the child or someone else within the child’s home;
      10. the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
      11. the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child; and
      12. any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

      Now take a look at those factors, and apply the facts of your case to these elements to compare things between the parents. Then, realize that #12 “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant” is probably one of the most important of them all. this is because if a judge believes something super important doesn’t quite fit in one of these more narrowly defined elements (1-11), the judge could make a decision based on that information.

      You need to consider how old the messages are on the phone, how old the photos are on the phone, whether there is a safe place for the kids to be sleeping at mom’s house (a couch or blow up mattress is NOT automatically a bad place to sleep for a kid), and whether the other people living in the house are good people actively providing a nurturing environment for the kids?

      A Petition to modify custody (also called a Petition to Modify Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time) needs to follow the correct process and touch on all these elements, among others.

      Lastly, it needs to be mentioned that it is possible that a prior agreement signed or entered by the judge controls how the process works. Many times (the vast majority, actually), the parenting plan / custody judgment / allocation judgment (different names depending on the state) will lay out terms to follow should one person want to change things up and modify custody. Most of the time, the procedure calls for the parties to first request that they attend mediation and if an agreement isn’t reached or if the other person doesn’t respond in time, that is the proper time to file a petition to modify custody.

      In this case, it looks like there are some serious issues if drugs are involved. If this is somewhat recent (judge for yourself what that means, but if it’s 2-years old, that is not ‘recent’), it is possible that you go into court quicker via an emergency motion if you believe the child’s life or health is actually in serious danger. This needs to be strict. If you ‘have a bad feeling’ and ‘the pictures are 9-months old’, that is probably not worthy of an emergency motion. Filing an emergency that the court does not deem an emergency will make you look nit-picky – so be careful here.

      Put things in order, lay out the facts of your case – as unbiased as possible (get a friend to help talk each one through), write it all out – organized, and get your evidence ready with multiple copies. then, contact an experienced child custody attorney and fight for your rights!

  8. Michael Williams

    Hello. I am an unwed father to a 8 yr old girl. Her mother and I have never been to court for anything related to our daughter. We’ve always managed to work things out on our own. But as recent as the last 3yrs my daughter has been with me in my home the majority of the time. When she does go with her mother I notice that her mom works a lot and when she is home she’s sleeping leaving my daughter alone. I have also noticed that when she is with her mother she is falling behind in school work because her mom is too tired to do it with her. This worries me. I have a stable home environment with plenty of resources including myself that would be in the best interest of my daughter socially as well as educationally. I would like my home to be her primary residence and would allow her mom to come get her whenever she doesn’t have to work or whenever she would like to spend time with her. Which is basically how things are right now. I am afraid to go the court route because I don’t want things to get messy. But this is beneficial to my baby girl. What steps should I take? Also since we’ve never been to court I never felt the need to keep receipts or proof.

  9. I am active duty military married for 5 years. I was never married to my oldest sons mother. we have had a consent judgment with child support included and no back support owed or payments missed in 4 years. I have followed the judgment to the tee, with her doing the same but loosely. Either way no one is in contempt. At the signing of the judgement she was married and now has a second daughter. My wife and I have another son. She went through a very nasty divorce which included infidelity and outside children and essentially being put out by her ex husband. Since then she went from sharing a bedroom, with her and my son and her other daughter to them finally getting their own apartment after about a year or so. During this past 4 years I have been on the other side of the country because of where I am stationed, but we split holidays and I get the summer. Now I will be getting international orders in the next year and I think it is time to come live with me full time. Its not that she is unfit as a parent but i can provide BETTER. I am a 2 parent household with a stable job. She is a single parent raising 2 children off a retail job income. All medical is immediately accessible to us at a moments notice. Aside from that its unarguable what I will be able to provide him socially living abroad. Also I feel like the needs of him as a 4 year old vs being a 10 year old pre-teen significantly have changed. How should I approach the case because I know she wont willingly give him up. Is this even a winnable argument? advice please

  10. Tatiana williams

    My boyfriend has 3 children (2,4,7) and two children’s mothers. Currently we pay 200 for each child and have them 43% of the time . Granted that one mother travels for work and we may have children for longer . My boyfriend makes more money than one child’s mother and about the same with the other who has two of his children. Anyways, we have tried to fight ( with mothers / not court ) to have 50/50 and they don’t want it . We have also tried to put kids on our insurance and they still decline. Both mothers have also claimed all 3 kids on their taxes along with the child care that we help pay for the past two years . My question is how likely are we to go to court for 50/50 and actually grant it and do you believe the current amount paid to mothers is acceptable. We also go half with sports and schooling and child care FYI .

  11. I am married but I have 2 extramarital children that the state is trying to take from me because of the mother’s drug issues. I am gainfully employed, I own my home and still live with my wife (with her permission) and Our 2 minor children .. The state is trying to take my other children and put them in Separate foster homes against my wishes and will emotionally devastate my children. The mother has no desire to fight for custody. I want full custody of MY children. The state is fighting hard to keep them from me without due cause simply because the *mother* has Not cooperated with them in any way. I am full time employed (in business for over 25 years) but I do not have the disposable cash to pay for an attorney to fight this.. but if I don’t, I will lose my children to t he state. Any advice or options would be greatly appreciated.

  12. My girlfriend and I have a 5 month old daughter together. She has lived with me every since we found out she is pregnant. I provide everything as far as bills, expenses, etc. as she has no job. Similar to a previous comment, I think she’s definitely got some mental issues going on. I have videos of her drunk, pushing me, yelling and cursing in front of our daughter. About a week ago she left while I was at work with my daughter and will not let me see her. She rarely responds to text/phone calls when I try to communicate with her about seeing my daugher. It starting to sound like she’s went to some kind of shelter or something and claiming abuse or something now?! (just from the few clues I’ve gathered) I’m assuming she’s done this in an attempt to get custody of our daughter?! She has no job, no money, no means of income, no home, nothing. I have NOT abused her AT ALL! What right does she have to just take our daughter and leave and not let me see her?! She won’t even send a picture of her or anything?! My parents have also been in contact with her and she will not allow them to see our daughter either. All she says is “you will see her again soon”?! Also, IF she is at some shelter, what could they possibly be telling her that makes it “okay” to keep my daughter from me?! I just don’t understand how any of this is morally right?! Surely someone HAS to let me know my daughter is at least safe right?! How do I not know she isn’t or hasn’t already done something crazy?! I’ve not went to a lawyer yet in hopes that I wouldn’t have to put her through all this. However, its been long enough and now my only concern is for my daughter. I’ve called and scheduled a consultation with a lawyer; but that’s going to be another 5 days before I have an appt.

  13. My boyfriend is fighting to see his son. he has been thrown in jail countless times while the mother of his child is recently dating a heroin addict. he felt it was right to ask the man to stay away from his son. and got thrown in jail, even though he didn’t violate the protection order. and he has been trying to see his son on visitation days but the place he is going to keeps allowing the mother of his child to cancel and change days without discussion by the court. how is she allowed to cancel when ever he wants but if he misses more then 3 visits he loses custody?
    what matters should we take into consideration?
    is there anyone who can help us?

    1. Without knowing what the order of protection is regarding, who the protected parties are, and why there seems to be a supervised visitation situation taking place (where he is not allowed to be alone with his son outside of a professional supervisor observing the interaction), it is difficult to really give you a good answer here.

      That being said, here are the best practices, generally, in situations like these:

      1. Obey orders of protection no matter what, unless LITERALLY life hangs in the balance (this means a gun is pointed at you now, not threatened next week, get the difference?)

      2. Always record with notes details, dates, time, and locations of all appointments, communications, and court ordered dates.

      3. If she is cancelling or rescheduling multiple times, and if she is doing so without notice to him of her doing so, is there a reasonable excuse for doing so? Usually not, but find out – without violating the order of protection, of course.

      4. Realize that orders of protections can be violated by all types of activities: you talking to the mom about it, you talking to her boyfriend about it, you talking to the mom’s family or friends about it, etc. Keep this clean or it will continue to haunt him.

      5. He needs to keep everything straight and clean on his end. this means no drinking, no smoking, no drug use. None. Of any kind. Not a sip. Not a drag. Nothing. Until he can commit to being 100% clean, him asking for any kind of drug test on mom or the man mom is living with is going to bite him twice as hard – because the judge WILL order EVERYONE to submit to a random drop or follicle test. And then he’s done.

      6. If she continues to cancel and there is not a reasonable excuse, or if you can’t find out why (because you don’t want to risk violating the order of protection, of course). the next step is to file what is called (in many states) a Petition for Rule to Show Cause, or a Petition for Adjudication of Indirect Civil Contempt of Court. This is a motion, filed by him, against the mother, alleging the following:
      i. A court order exists telling someone to do or not to do something specific;
      ii. She has not been following the court order;
      iii. She does not have a ‘compelling reason’ to not be following the court order;
      iv. That her actions/inaction are willful, contumacious, and have impaired the rights and interests of him and the court’s administration of justice.

      This requires evidence. Evidence is NOT “I showed up and she wasn’t there and she is trying to screw me over.” That is not evidence of anything. Evidence is a written record from the facility that he was there on time on the correct date and she failed to show up. Evidence is her text message or voicemail saying “I’m not going because I hate you”, things like that. Actual proof that can be viewed or heard by the judge.

      This is what is shown to the judge, along with the court order that she has violated. And it must be specific and on point, and ancillary issues are not to be discussed unless probed by the judge because extra distractions that take away from the main point here are just that – distractions.

      Because he has found himself in jail multiple times and because this process is NOT easy, it would be best for him obtain an experienced child custody attorney to fight on his behalf. He’s going to need to save some money, but without doing so, he stands little chance at keeping himself out of jail and in getting the parenting time he deserves.

  14. My husband was locked up for 5 years, the child’s mother has drug issues, My step daughter lives with her Maternal grandmother. He also owes back child support. Will any of those issues effect him having visitation/custody. The child is 15

    1. It depends on what he was incarcerated for, of course. If it was for what would be termed a “violent crime”, that would have a larger impact on visitation / parenting time than nonviolent offenses. My guess is that the courts would first order a period of time of therapy for him, the child, and the two of them together in what is commonly referred to as “reunification therapy” or “relationship rebuilding therapy” so that the judge (and possibly a child representative) could have something concrete to look at and a report to review stating that parenting time / visitation is appropriate, why, and how much should be granted.
      Owing past-due child support arrears typically is not a reason to deny visitation / parenting time by itself though. In fact, many states have programs such as “Project Clean Slate” whereby the an amount of child support owed that accrued while incarcerated is ‘forgiven’ since it wasn’t possible to work, earn, and make the payments to begin with.
      Best advice is to reach out and speak with an experienced child custody attorney to provide some additional details on his situation and find out what his father’s rights are and how they can be obtained in a court order.

  15. My son allowed his girlfriend to live with him after he got her pregnant. The baby is born and he asked her to leave due to her always wanting to fight. So now she won’t allow him to see his son . Furthermore she put a restraining order on him after she thought he reported her to CPS and trying to accuse him of domestic violence. He has proof and videos of her erratic behavior and hired a domestic violence attorney. In the meantime, he can’t see his son due to her non compliance of the supervised visitation order. He is currently off of wrk due to a shoulder injury from wrk. He has to pay child support and pay to see his son at the Hannah’s House . He hasn’t seen his son since November. This is his one and only child . He missed out on his 1st birthday and Christmas. He has clothes and shoes and toys for his son and can’t see him to get them to him due to the strict rules at the Hannah’s House . They are taking forever to process the paperwork for him to see his son and have tons of strict rules . She is putting my son through hell to keep him away from his son, because he doesn’t want to be with her is the bottom line. She is so evil and my son has to suffer by not being able to see his son . She need to be punished for her lies and vindictive acts. She also need a Psychological evaluation.

    1. Your son needs an attorney that specializes in child custody matters. He can’t wait any longer, since November is already getting to be too long to make the case that he is exhausting all options to see his child and that it is the most important thing in his life – this is how a judge could view a delay like this (it’s not fair, its not right, but this is how the courts view these types of things).

      What she has done sounds terrible and not in the best interests of the child. And the best interests of the child is the standard by which courts decide things like custody, visitation, parenting time, allocation of parental responsibilities, and decision making abilities. Her lying and keeping the child away from his father is not at all what the courts think is proper.

      And if there is a court order where he is to have parenting time on a set schedule and she is denying it, that is a violation of the the judges order and she could be subject to indirect civil contempt of court for violating the court order that is in place. This is done through the filing of a motion called a “Petition for Rule to Show Cause” (called other things depending on the state) but the point of it is to point out that she is and continues to violate a court order and the remedy for this is contempt.

      Please help your son out as much as you possibly can – he needs to get this started immediately, if it goes on too long, even though it is based on lies, it will not end well for him. Do all you can to support his efforts and don’t let him give up!

    2. My son is going through a similar situation! Be in the courts since July, hasn’t seen his two children since the end of October , she will not left me ( grandma ) see them either. Went from taking them every Monday for 3 1/2 yrs to nothing.. talk about messing with children’s emotions. She is pure evil. Fathers have rights, he pays support, he’s passed 2 drug test, done his parenting class, everything he’s supposed to do and still can’t see his kids! We have a room full of Christmas gifts from our family, it is now going into June!! Not sure we have the right lawyer, but fathers have rights too. We will fight to the end with everything we have!!

  16. my fiancee is in a custody battle with the mother of his child. he attempted suicide this past year but in his er medical records from the visit it states that he told the dr he didnt rally want to die just disappear. now his babys mom is trying to use this against him in court even tho he is getting the help he needs and has not done anything even close to that since it happened. will it hurt his case on getting his child?

    1. First off, so sorry for the difficult time that he has and is going through. Now, will it hurt his child custody case? Yes. In most instances, when a person is dealing with mental illness, so long as they are working towards positive mental health by seeking help through regularly scheduled counseling, medication, follow ups, the court looks at this as a positive thing and does not necessarily look down on it. Remember, 1 in 5 people in the U.S. deal with mental illness, so the chances are the judge, the judges spouse, one of the judges kids or relatives has or is dealing with some form of mental illness. And I am sure that the judge does not think his/her spouse is ‘unfit’ to raise his/her children because the spouse is on medication for bipolar disorder or something else.

      Now, this is a different situation because whether anyone wants to admit it, places the children in some danger. A suicide attempt, besides being traumatic should the kids find out, could have led to a terrifying situation for the physical and mental health of the kids. What if he did this while the kids were with him, alone? what could have happened to the kids being left alone, or should they have witnessed it? This is exactly what an attorney will bring up to the judge, and the judge will agree, at least on some level.

      Now, you say he is getting help and making progress – that is great news – for him, for you, and most of all, for the children. But it wasn’t that long ago that he ‘almost’ fell into the abyss – it’s only been a year or less. This is too fresh to not have an impact. Fast-forward 5-years and he is still seeing a therapist and everything has been great and the therapist has even provided the court with notes or testimony that he is not a danger to himself any longer and we have a different situation entirely, one that shows he is on the same level as the mother.

      For now, he should realize that it is not out of the question to win custody or even 50/50, but he should be realistic and realize that winning custody so soon from this event is an extremely remote possibility and not burn it all down fighting for something he probably has no chance at winning. Fight for the kids, but be realistic in the approach and accept nothing less than significant parenting time that possibly increases over time or milestones that maybe his therapist can dictate regarding his progress and, over time, a proven track record.

      In any event, he absolutely needs someone to defend and fight for his father’s rights here because even though most states explicitly state that father’s and mother’s are to be treated equally under the law for child custody matters, anyone that understands real life knows that the court’s frequently sway towards the mother, even if done so unintentionally or unconsciously. Tell him to keep it moving forward on a positive track and never get to that dark place again. We’re all grateful that he is still here for his children.

  17. Hello,

    I am asking for a friend, my friend is a daddy and his baby mother had mental health records she left at his home and he wants to know can he use those same records that she has from doctors and psychocratists to use against her in the court or is that an invasion of privacy and HIPPA as she did not authorize those to documents to be used against her?

    1. Sounds like it is a bad idea on multiple fronts. Whether HIPPA violations can occur from him using them would be a different situation altogether, as those regulations are primarily used to keep privacy between a healthcare provider and a patient.
      Either way though, bringing up mental health is oftentimes a dangerous thing to do in custody cases. There is a procedure where a mental health evaluation of both parents and the child can take place, but those are very frequently quite expensive (ie. thousands of dollars – it is a doctor you are hiring here for this to be done).

      Here is why it is dangerous and oftentimes not a good idea; first, here’s the hypothetical:

      Let’s assume that mom is bipolar, and she has struggled with this for a long time. She is on medication, sees a therapist/psychiatrist and has been doing so for some time in order to get better/work towards better mental health.

      1. Bad idea to bring this up #1. The judge will see a person that has struggled/is struggling and see positive steps being taken (medication, therapy, etc.) to get better an be a healthy person and parent. This is only positive for mom – she is doing things in her power to ensure that her mental health improves.
      2. Bad idea to bring this up #2. How many people have mental health issues in America? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 people experience mental illness during their life (see chart here). So, take this into account, it is very likely that the judge, the judges spouse, maybe the judges close friends or kids or parents suffer from mental illness (its 1 in 5 people after all!), the judge knows his/her spouse takes medication for depression and is a great spouse and parent and sees you as attacking someone trying to get help and doing what they consider the right thing – and the judge doesn’t think that his/her spouse should have the kids taken away from him or her because of this. So you come off looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about, or worse, like a jerk.

      Knowing that this is so dangerous to bring up, the next questions that actually relates is this: is this persons mental health actually an impediment to them being a good parent? Does she have a job/ does she support her kid(s)? Does she have friends and family that would agree and/or support her? If so, then there probably isn’t a good reason to hammer this to the judge, especially based on #2 (above).

      Now, there are different situations that may call for action on her mental health. Lets say that she recently (think the last year) attempted suicide. This is a dangerous situation and one a judge should be made aware of. Or a situation where she lost control and hurt the children or did something dangerous (forgot kids somewhere, wouldn’t get out of bed and change a diaper for a day or more, etc.). These types of situations are more typical of why mental health issues should be raised in court.

      In all likelihood, lets just assume that both of them are good parents and the only main difference is dad is mentally healthy and mom has some issues. If the scale needs to be tipped, this would be something that a child representative (a lawyer for children) could investigate and possibly tip the scales in his favor.

      Keep these things in mind, because mental health issues during child custody fights are dangerous to bring up. Best to speak with one of our child custody experts and go over some more details to put him on the right path.

    2. Hello, my husband pays child support for his son, his mom does not let him see his son so he wants to file for visitation but we live in another state would they affect his case in anyway?

      1. It depends on what the situation really is here. When you say “lives in another state”, so you mean he lives 1,000 miles away, or he lives across the border, just a 45-minute drive? Those two differences are big, of course.
        First though, the issue of child support vs. parenting time (or visitation): The two topics are ‘not’ connected. What this means is that parenting time / visitation will not be cancelled or denied for failure to pay child support and parenting time / visitation is not guaranteed because child support is being paid. Now, in many states, the amount of “overnights” a parent has with a child can have a determination on how much child support needs to be paid and by which parent, but not paying support is NOT a valid reason to deny parenting time / visitation.

        If there is a court order in place that states that someone gets visitation and the mom simply denies it and says “you can see your kid when you start paying support,” she has violated a court order and is subject to indirect civil contempt of court. From the sounds of your message, there is no parenting time order or order determining child custody and visitation rights, that’s my takeaway from your message at least.

        So, if there is no court order for parenting time / visitation in place, mom will not have violated a court order and thus, cannot be held in contempt of court.

        Now, what does this all mean and what should be done? If there is a child support order already in place and it has come through the courts (in front of a judge, not administratively through department of health and human services or some other entity that mails letters and makes a phone call), he should file a Petition for Parenting Time and Entry of Parenting Plan and Custody Judgment (in some states, called an Allocation Judgment).

        Since there is already a child support case opened and in progress, paternity must have already been established, so that’s good. Now, there will likely be numerous court dates, so if this is a case where he is 1,000 miles away, he absolutely needs a local lawyer. If he is close, he still needs an experienced child custody lawyer. Not having a lawyer is the same (in 90% of cases) as walking into court and telling the judge “I don’t know what I’m doing but I want to see my kid so make her do it for me!” The response from the judge would likely be to laugh him right out of the courtroom.

        If he is far away, it is likely that parenting time will be affected in a big way, because the court will not want to just send a kid, who may not have seen a parent in months, across the country for an extended period of time. The likely scenario would be for the courts, depending on the age of the child, (think ages as under 13 as ‘young’ and over 13 years old as ‘older’, but there is no set rule usually), to have some kind of day-time only parenting time for a while and then slowly build up to overnights and then extended time. With an older child, this is much easier to do. With a young child, this is not simple at all and will most likely require dad making lots of trips to moms city and probably even having a guardian ad litem or child representative appointed to represent the child’s best interests. This will normally cost additional money, so you are aware, as the majority of child representatives are just attorneys that handle cases same as everyone else, but they ALSO handle cases where they are appointed to represent minor children as well.

        Long story short, he needs a lawyer to fight for his fathers rights. He also needs to consider options of moving within an hour or even less of mothers residence to ensure he can have significant parenting time with his son. And he needs to always make sure he pays his child support in full, on time, and with a check or money order where he keeps the receipt – never cash!!!

  18. My husband and I have been married for 10 years and we have two kids. He had an affair and got the woman pregant. We are working on our marriage and we are staying together. My husband signed the paperwork saying they agreed on paternity and his name is on the birth certificate. We have only seen his son one time. He is almost 2. My husband tried contacting her before the baby was born and after. She ignored him. The baby was born and at almost 2 months old she literally showed up at my husband’s work and dropped the baby off. She said he needed to watch his son. So we had him for about 6 hrs and dropped him back off. My husband continually tried to reach out to her after that for several months. Then he gave up for awhile because she continued to ignore us. We have not heard a single thing from her and yesterday we got a call from DHHS or whoever saying a complaint for child support has been filed. First of all, my husband has tried to get copies of the birth certificate from the vital records office and they won’t give him any. They said the mother would have to do that?! So my husband can’t have a copy of something he signed??? The child has our last name! Secondly, why is he being charged child support when she hasn’t even let us see him?! He has siblings too mind you. We just don’t understand. We haven’t had a chance to do anything at all. There were times my husband tried supporting his son with formula and diapers and things like that and again she would just ignore. What can we do?! Is all of this even allowed? Do we need an attorney? We want joint custody. We want him in our lives!

    1. In the vast majority of states, child custody/parenting time and child support are two entirely separate issues (unrelated). Now, they ARE related insofar as child support amount is determined by the amount of parenting time or overnight parenting time each parent has, depending on the state. But there is absolutely no correlation between not being able to see your child because you don’t pay child support or the other way around.

      As far as birth certificates, they aren’t as important as most people think. The document that is primarily important in most states for determine and proving paternity is a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (called a ‘VAP’ for short). It may have different names in different states, but this is the common term.

      To obtain his rights to parenting time, he will need to file a petition to establish paternity in court and have her served. Once this is granted, he will need to also file a petition for parenting time/petition to enter a custody judgment (also called a parenting plan or allocation judgment). The court will rarely give a parent that has not had significant time with a child joint legal and physical custody, but there is no reason a plan can’t be ordered by the judge that allows for parenting time to increase over time.

      Yes, you should retain an experienced child custody attorney. The laws are complex here and he should not make the mistake of hiring a lawyer down the road to both get him his father’s rights while at the same time fixing the mistakes an unrepresented person most likely made in previous court filings – this just means more money spent in the end.

  19. My sons girlfriend of 3 years just left last week their home in Mississippi with their 21 month old son and moved to Kansas. He works every day, she does not, he does not drink, do drugs and is an active father in his life. He wants to pursue custody of him. She says at the moment that he can visit him anytime, but that is a 10 hour drive 1 way. What are his options? Is it possible to get custody? He has a home, vehicle paid for and steady job and family to help with babysitting.

    1. This cannot wait at all. A motion must be filed this week – the longer he waits, the worse it will be in the courts eyes. The best method is to hire an experienced father’s rights attorney that specializes in child custody and parentage cases.
      No matter what, he needs to file a petition for declaration of paternity first; this is his way of saying that he is the father, legally, of the child. He should try to obtain a copy of the ‘VAP’ (voluntary acknowledgement of paternity) from either the hospital where his child was born, or from the state’s vital records department and attach it as an exhibit to his petition. Then, he needs to hire a special process server where she is staying and have her served the next day – as fast as possible. Finally, he needs to also (hopefully she is served in a day or two, but either way, he files anyways), an emergency motion to return the child to the state of Mississippi.

      The judge will not give him control over a child that he is legally not dad, that is why he files it as an action seeking a declaration of paternity first – that is how it gets in court and gets him rights. The emergency motion is meant to bring her back, to ensure jurisdiction remains and stays where he lives (and she used to live).

      Help him out, start gathering information (get the VAP, this is different from the birth certificate) asap and doo all you can to hire an attorney to file an emergency motion – 3-months from now, if it has not been filed, a judge will lean 80% against bringing her back – right now, the chances are probably more like 80%+ her being forced to come back to Mississippi.

  20. I’m so sorry for you man. I’m in the same almost exact situation…..I don’t have any advise but you have my full support brother!

  21. I need a good attorney in the state of Ohio (Dayton, OH area) that will take a case on proving paternity and file for custody.

  22. My son is trying to locate his son my grandson. He has visitation rights, but the mother has moved out of state we have no idea where they are . It has been two months since we saw him last. What can we do?

    1. You need to call a lawyer. Most lawyers have private investigators that can run a skip trace and locate an individual for $50-$200. Then, an emergency motion needs to be filed to bring her back. You cannot wait on this, it needs to be done immediately. If nothing is filed until 6-months later, it is unlikely a judge will bring her back. IT’s possible, but the longer it goes on, the worse situation he is in.
      This is also contempt of court and visitation interference, he needs a lawyer now.

  23. Aly-

    Who are you to decide how long is enough in someone ELSE’s sobriety. Time doesn’t really matter, what matters is the person’s decision to be clean. It doesn’t matter if its been one day or one year. If hes clean and done with it, then its over. You’ve clearly not been burdened by addiction. Otherwise you would understand how this works. Not to mention you have no idea what a “few” months means. So just stop, please. There is no need to smear this man any further than he has been already. FYI being a good dad, means he has to be balanced and happy and content with himself before he can take care of the kiddo…so if this helps him get right with life then he will be able to be a better dad. Same concept as in a airplane and the oxygen masks come down. Get yours on first and working so you can properly help others. Mic Dropped

  24. hai i also have a problem im an individual who is 25 yrs having the the child with the woman who is 33 yrs old. we are no longer dating, but she doesn’t allow me to see my child and spend time with him. she once denied me an access after false allegations she made of that i bit her. i approached the court court orders were given with phased contact and supervision by the mother. now the the mother is frustrating my contact with the child she has tried all that she can to push me away from the child she even lied before the court saying that i consume alcohol and once talk of absconding with the child. ive been seeing the child,and proving maintenance and according to customary law ive even paid the damages for the child. i dont want any contact with the mother i want to spend time with the child without her around as i even trust her she is capable of doing anything that can put me in trouble.
    since i was given the court orders but

  25. Michael wloszek

    My girlfriend and I have a 20 month old, we live together, in a house she owns half and I bought out her ex and make mortgage payments and pay every other bill, I go to school 2 nights a week and work 40 plus hrs a week, she is really good at acting miss innocent but I found men’s clothes in our bedroom and drug paraphernalia so I asked her about and she completely denies it, I bought an audio recorder and over a 3 week period, there is recordings of her and other people in our house talking about and doing drugs as well as her being intimate with other men ,while my son is in the front room, she leaves him unattended in the bath and when her friends show up she sends him to back yard to play for 10-15 mins at a time before checking on him briefly, again she denies this. He is only 20 months old, she threatens to take him from me when she’s mad. I know a child needs both parents & I know he loves his mama, I don’t wanna cheat him out of having either of us. I feel so powerless & don’t know what to do. Any feedback would be appreciated.please and thank you

  26. I am indire straights, i am going to be going back to court soon to fight for custody of my 2 boys that i was a stay at home parent with for six years, and my daughter who is from my last relationship, both my ex wife and ex girlfriend have buddied up since i left my ex girlfriend and proceed to attack me from both sides and really use my kids as pawns, i am currently in Tennessee and my kids are in Montana, this makes things even harder trying to keep in contact with my children, and neither of the mothers do anything to help with this, i am degraded to my kids by both exs and my ex wifes boyfriend, since my divorce my ex wife and her boyfriend have pushed my boys to call him dad to the extent both of my boys stopped calling me dad and using my first name when talking to them, thus has been happening since they were 2 & 6 years of age, i cant afford an attorney and cant afford to be traveling from Tenessee to Montana for court, so they are trying to rail road me with my kids, my ex wife has never held to the parenting plan, but my old cell phone that had all the evidence on it my ex girlfriend has surely destroyed, i desperately need help!!!

  27. do you have any support group recommendations for fathers going through custody battles? My brother is dealing with a very manipulative and damaging female and uses the baby as a pawn. Judge has sided with her on two different visitation/custody orders.

  28. Gayla A. Smith

    I am not a father but I support their rights,if a man is willing to stand up and do whats right, he should be allowed and given credit. I have helped my boy friend rais his son for 7 years and now the state of Oklahoma gives our son to a mother who refused to care or help support him. this chick attacked me physicaly in my home twice and I still let her in to see her son that we raised. She is only after a power hype over the dad because of her obsession with him. now the state of Oklahoma, Pushmataha county, has given her our son not knowing the full situation and falsifying documents against the dad. My family has helped provide Christmas, birthdays, and school clothes and supplies. She never did, for seven years. this state is so pathetic that attorneys wont even help him with his case even though they are listing themselves as fathers rights lawyers!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. I’m a father in Florida have already filed and got my rights as his father Now the mother is not letting me see the sun or talk to the sun she is in violation of the parenting plan that we have a the court has set forth How do I get my son when she won’t let me have him It’s been almost a month now I’ve not talked to my son or seen him and the court date is almost 3 months away.Is there anything I can do to make her give me my son

    1. Get a lawyer they will file a notice of service to the mother regarding your paternity to the child. Save your money and hire someone to stop her because if you have gotten your rights as the parent to him she will look really bad because she’s withholding visitation from you.
      You can also look to a Court Appointed Attorney and see if they offer lower prices for their services. I put out around $6000for 50/50 custody for my unmarried son who got a girl pregnant and told him he would never see her, now we get her 3 1/2 days a week, Court Ordered.
      Good luck to you but remember you have rights to see him!

    2. Make note of the days you should have had your son. A great way to do that is calling the non emegent police line and having an officer just make an offense report on the issue. An officer will come out read the order and then give you a report number. Go pick up the reports. Then go file a contempt of court order form at the court house. This forces the judge to see the case again and redue the order. It can even give you the right to your son and give her visitation. You must have solid evidence and not just your word on the issue.

  30. I am not married and have been with the mother of my kids for 10years we have two kids. We are getting separated and I want the kids to move with me because I have the same hours of work as they do in school, I’m a teacher and they are both erolled in the school I work. The mother works a job we’re she closes the store a 2pm-12pm job. I told her the best thing would be that the kids stay with me and every time she has a day off or wants to take the kids to school or pick them up she could. But for the most part to stay at my new place to keep the same routine and facilitate me to take them to school and pick Them up because 5 out of 7 days a week she is not around. Am I doing the right thing? Am I able to do that? Can she deny that verbal agreement we got to?

  31. I live in the state of Florida I have three boys and one on the way been with the same woman 10 years but we’re not married she pulls the kids away from me as she feels like whenever she gets mad at me which is not fair to them nor I she knows I have no money for a lawyer because I am the Sole Provider for our family she also has a big family on her side and I have nobody really I can count on that being said I’m stuck in the Dilemma I am a great father I do everything I can for an with them and they love me more than anything really hurts me to know she’s hurting them by not letting them come home when they want to just cuz she’s mad at me therefore I really need some help with filing for my rights in Florida can anybody please help me

    1. I’m from Florida also and unmarried and 12 years my x took my son and went to Ky under Florida law the mother of an unwed couple has custody of the child bottom line! Well I moved to Ky and have been paying child support for 12 years and no money to spare for another battle I have yet to see my son in 12 years and just recently she now wants me to say it is ok to change his last name but not relinquish parental rights which obviously the only right I have is to pay child support so hang in there!

  32. Ok so i got a donestic on my children’s mom drunk a couple weeks ago Can i Persue and charges if the mother will not let me see them or talk to the and has moved 3hrs away from where they was born and no one by them will awsner if i do call but she has my number blocked and blocked social media I have no way of speak with my kids or knowing where to drive to see them

  33. Where are you located?
    My grandson is so totally broke after paying for 2 lawyers fees he barely has money to eat on or gas for work, this is sending him into a state of depression (as well as me-I am his only grandmother), he just went thro a horrible divorce, now the ex girlfriend won’t let him see his 9 yr old daughter KhloeKate, she’s heartbroken to, the mom and stepdad doesn’t let KhloeKate talk to him except on their terms. My grandson 8 months ago did use some drugs not all the different drugs, but quit an is clean, the court at litem is extremely rude to him and is 100% for the ex girlfriend, please do you know anyone that could possibly help him free or super low fees, the lawyer he has has charged over $900. so far & done nothing, does not give him any hope, the ex want full/complete custody, child support, his family hasn’t got any visitation at all, the courts did give him every weekend but she’s saying no to that now I don’t have any money except my $870 social security ck, he makes 13$ a hr working concrete construction which depends on weather. My name is Jacque, my grandson is Sam Crawford
    My number is 8703734242, I pray you can help.

    1. You should listen to the courts. Sorry, but your grandson is an addict and it sounds like he’s been clean, at most, for a few months. That’s nowhere near enough time to ensure that he is committed to staying sober and is fit to raise a child.

      Instead of worrying about your grandson, maybe you should try actually worrying about your great-granddaughter and keep HER best interests in mind.

      1. Aly I do not appreciate your negative response to Jacque, who has done nothing but ask for harmless advise. if she didn’t have HER best interests in mind, why would she be taking the time to look for help? I don’t perceive her intentions as being selfish and just trying to keep her great granddaughter for her own sake. I believe that 9 yr old Khloe Kate knows that her Father is a good person that may have done some bad things but that does not make him uncapable of stay sober. If Sam has put his heart and mind on being a Good Father, who is going to say that he isn’t? Is no man capable of change? Is no addict capable of staying sober? It will work out for the greater good of Khloe, no matter what your opinion may be Aly. Your Narrow Minded Attitude of Negativity seems to have no benefit or gain for Khloe or Sam’s situation, but I have to agree with you on one thing indeed, you are sorry, but the rest of your family is probably ok.

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