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Paternity: Maintaining your legal parent-child relationship

When parents of a child are unmarried, it is common for them to run into a few legal obstacles if they choose to separate. Fathers usually are the ones who face the most challenges, since they are not considered the legal father of their child under Kentucky law if they were not married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth. 

However, fathers can avoid many legal issues in these complex situations if they establish paternity.

Establishing paternity creates a legal parent-child relationship 

Of course, the personal relationship between a parent and child is incredibly important. It is a unique bond that many people treasure. However, in cases of unmarried parents, the legal relationship might be just as important. 

A legal parent-child relationship is more than the recognition that someone is a child’s biological parent. It also gives the father important legal parental rights, including:

  • Allowing fathers the rights to make decisions for the child regarding important issues such as health care and education;
  • Granting the child rights and privileges to obtain benefits through their parents, or be listed as a legal beneficiary; and
  • Giving parents the responsibility to provide for the child financially and provide for necessities.

If fathers do not seek to establish paternity under Kentucky law, these rights could be terminated. 

A legal parent-child relationship also gives fathers custody and visitation rights

For many fathers, one of the most important rights that the legal-parent child relationship gives them is the right to obtain legal and physical custody of their child or visitation time. This often gives them the same right to parenting time as the mother has.

The custody arrangement that unmarried parents have will still depend heavily on what is in the child’s best interests, which includes factors such as:

  • The child’s age
  • The age and health of each parent
  • The relationship each parent has with the child
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child
  • The child’s preference, depending on their age

However, establishing paternity allows fathers to secure their parental rights in these complicated family situations. And that helps to ensure they can maintain the legal relationship and, in turn, the personal relationship they wish to have with their children.