Enforcing Custody or Visitation Rights: A Guide for Unmarried Fathers
Hi, I’m Brian L. Jackson. I’m a dads’ rights lawyer in Oklahoma with Dads.Law. Today, I want to start a series talking about enforcing your custody rights or your visitation rights once you have an initial order and also before you have an initial order.
To start with, let’s talk about you’re an unmarried father and you are, let’s say you are cohabitating with the child’s mother and now you all have split up. What do you do to ensure that you get to stay in that child’s life?
Well, the short answer is if you’re unmarried and you are genuinely unmarried, it’s not a common law situation, then you would be looking at having to file a paternity action in district court. Now, unfortunately, there’s a bitter pill you have to swallow initially. And until you’ve actually gotten adjudication that you’re dad, you do not have any rights to that child.
She has all the custodial rights, you have none. And she can basically dictate when and if you get to see your kid. So until then, you basically have no rights and she can tell you to go jump off a log. So it’s important in that situation to get into court quickly and file that paternity.
Filing a Paternity Action: Your Initial Option
If you are in Tulsa County, I can tell you it’s the second busiest county in the state. As a result, you are going to, unfortunately, be looking at having to wait a little bit to actually get a hearing date. Your first initial appearance would be a PPC where you can try to negotiate some kind of agreement on a temporary basis.
But the reality is that if she wants to be a jerk and make sure you don’t see your kid for a while, unfortunately, she can do that. And until you get into court, you really don’t have any options other than to get into court. So that would be your initial option. You want to try to move that along as quickly as possible.
Asserting Your Rights Early: The Friendly Suit Approach
One thing to be aware of is that just because you all are living together and everything is going copacetic, doesn’t mean you can’t go to court and try and assert your rights early. And the way to do that is you want to kind of do what’s called a friendly suit where you and she agree to go to court and basically enter an order ahead of time that memorializes what the custodial arrangement looks like if you all break up.
And I mean, that is a possibility and something to talk to a lawyer about. And you can do it in a very friendly way. You don’t have to be adversarial with her, just so that you have something to fall back on. And that’s a good idea. And that way you’re protected. So if things do go south, that would protect you.
Considering Marriage: A Different Legal Outlook
The other option, obviously, is if the relationship is going to be a permanent long-term one, if you know she’s pregnant and you’re going to be with her anyway, consider getting married. Because your legal outlook is very different if you’re married versus unmarried. And I’m going to talk about that in a future video.
If you are looking at needing to file paternity though, even if it’s going to be a friendly suit, you need legal counsel. One place you can find good legal counsel is at Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable.
Take Action Now – Free Consultation
If you’re an unmarried father facing custody or visitation challenges, take the first step today. Contact us at Dads.Law for a free consultation and to speak with a child custody attorney in Tulsa. We are here to fight for your rights as a father.