As a child’s father, you have the legal right to parenting time and participate in your child’s upbringing. However, you may face some unique challenges, especially if you’re unmarried to the child’s mother.
According to the Kentucky child custody laws, the biological mother of a child born outside wedlock is the default custodian. This means you don’t have the initial rights to custody or visitation until paternity is established.
There are two primary paths you can take to establish paternity:
- Agree with the mother of your child to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) form
- Go to court and file a paternity lawsuit
Using the VAP form to establish paternity in Kentucky
When a child is born to unmarried parents, the parents have the choice to sign a VAP form. This form is available in all hospitals and birthing facilities in Kentucky, and signing it in the notary public’s presence confirms that you’re the biological father.
In most cases, the VAP form is signed in hospitals or birthing facilities, but it can be signed elsewhere. You can also get these forms at your local registrar’s office. If you’re not sure about the paternity of your child, you can demand genetic testing to confirm the DNA link before you sign the VAP form.
However, simply signing the form doesn’t mean you have custody and visitation rights, but it allows you to go to court and request the court visitation rights and custody.
Going to court and filing a paternity lawsuit
Even if you never signed the VAP form, you can go to court and ask for genetic testing from the mother. If there is a DNA link to your child, the judge will give the final paternity judgment and demand that your name is added to your child’s birth certificate.
The judge will also decide on issues of financial obligations, visitation, custody, and where the child will live.
Gone are the days when family courts resolved child custody cases by treating fathers as less necessary in a child’s life. But if you fear that your relationship with your child may be diminished by an unfair judgment, ensure you seek legal assistance.