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Unmarried dads and custody conundrums

If you are the parent of a child born out of wedlock, sorting out the custody arrangements can be a bit more complex than if the parents were married to one another. But make no mistake, both married and unmarried parents face many of the same challenges when determining custody of their minor children.

Fathers of children born to unmarried parents may have acknowledged paternity of the child at the birth, or shortly thereafter. But some California fathers don't learn that they have a child until some time after the baby is born. In some cases, it could be years before the revelation is made by the child's mother.

If you are just learning that you have a child with the child's mother, your first order of business is to take a paternity test. Even if you accept the mother's word that you are the father, it is important to establish paternity legally.

Once that has been done, it opens the door to the father petitioning the court for visitation, custody and to be responsible for paying child support for their son or daughter.

Of course, the California family law courts are unlikely to award custody of the child to a father who is meeting the child for the first time unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Typically, the court will first order visitation be granted to allow the parent and child to get to know one another.

You may not want to have much contact with the child's mother. But you will still need to arrange custody exchanges and communicate other vital information about your child.

Those who want to minimize telephone and face-to-face contact with the other parent can ask that their San Jose family law attorney include in the custody order that the parents use texts or special apps to communicate about their shared parenting duties and other information germane to the child.

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