The law governing familial relationships still mostly assumes that parents are married when they have children. When married fathers have children, the paternal rights are automatically applied and presumed. But for unwed fathers, they must affirmatively assert their rights in a document attesting to their relationship. These rights can be asserted without the mother. However, it is far simpler if she is involved.
Unfortunately, many families do not know that they must formally attest to the relationship. After all, most people assume that they live as a family, which is enough. But it isn't.
There is a serious problem when unwed parents who are cohabiting break-up. Unless the father signed that attestation, he has zero parental rights to his child. He will be forced to file a paternity action for a DNA test to prove his biological relationship. All the while, his ex-partner is raising their child without his input.
The law presumes that the mother retains full physical and custody of the children until you can prove that you are the biological father and establish paternity. Paternity actions are often complicated, convoluted, and time-consuming. It can take months or years before the action is resolved.
It is, therefore, critical that if you are unmarried and expecting a child, that you sign your name to the child's birth certificate or file an alternative paternity attestation form.
If you are engaged in a paternity action, you should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible. Paternity actions are complicated with numerous issues that will implicate your legal obligations for years to come. An attorney can ensure that you fully consider all of the issues.