Oklahoma law mandates that the mother automatically receives sole custody of any child who is born out of wedlock. This means that if you fathered a child with a woman you were not married to, you do not have any automatic custody rights to your child. In Oklahoma, it is essential for unmarried fathers to establish paternity as soon as possible in order to assume the rights and responsibilities of parenthood.
Establishing Paternity in Oklahoma
There are two ways for a man to prove paternity in the state of Oklahoma:
*Voluntarily Accepting Paternity - If your name is not on the birth certificate, but the mother acknowledges you are the father, then both parents can simply sign an “Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity.” This legal document is a notarized written statement confirming that you are the child’s father. Hospitals have this form on hand so that you may ask for it after the birth. You can also obtain the Affidavit from the Oklahoma State Division of Vital Records. However, be aware that if the mother does not agree that you are the father, this form will not establish paternity.
Although the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity establishes you as the legal parent, it does not determine custody or visitation rights or support obligations. If you have some doubts about whether you are the father, you should not sign this form because it is difficult to legally overturn it at a later date.
*Filing a Paternity Lawsuit - You can go to court to prove you are the father. If you file a paternity lawsuit, the case will involve genetic testing to determine whether you are the father. The parties can settle the case or go to trial. Genetic testing in Oklahoma is done with a buccal swab in the mouth rather than by a blood test. If the genetic testing shows a 99% or greater probability of paternity, you are legally the father.
After Paternity is Established
Once paternity is established, you can petition the court for custody and visitation with the child. The court will then determine custody, support and visitation. The legal standard is what is in “the best interest of the child.” To make this decision, the court evaluates a number of different factors, such as:
*Each parent’s capability of providing for the child
*Whether each parent will expose the child to drug use, sexual encounters, or other dangerous conditions
*Willingness to foster a positive relationship with the other parent *Domestic abuse in either home *The child’s preference, if over the age of 12
Oklahoma Visitation Rights for Unmarried Fathers
Once the court determines custody and visitation rights, the custodial parent cannot deny court-mandated visitation to the other parent. This means that if the mother is the custodial parent, she cannot deny the father his visitation rights, even if h;;e is not paying child support or is behind on his payments.
At the same time, if the noncustodial parent is being denied visitation, he cannot stop paying child support. Visitation and child support are not interrelated. The lesson is that if visitation is being denied, or if payments are not made, the parents must go back to court to settle the problem.
Contact an Oklahoma Father’s Rights Attorney Today
In recent years, there has been an increased recognition of the key role that fathers play in the lives of their children. Involved fathers increase a child’s confidence, sense of well-being, academic development and many other variables that set a child up for success. If you are an unmarried father, call our office at 405-542-2529 (542-CLAW) to speak with one of our highly experienced Oklahoma child custody and visitation lawyers. Read more about our team, or continue reading and researching our free legal information library, or enter live chat.