When a woman is pregnant, things can get tricky for the father of the child if the couple has split up. What rights does a father have to an unborn child? Can the father do things like stop the mother from moving to a new state? Father’s rights during pregnancy are limited from a legal standpoint but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
What rights does a father have to an unborn child?
Before a child is born, very little can be done from a legal standpoint.
Fathers rights during pregnancy
When a child is prenatal, or the female is pregnant, your rights as the father are very limited. While the mother is pregnant she remains the only one with rights over the unborn baby.
This can be very challenging for an unmarried couple.
The Supreme Court does not give rights to the father of an unborn child to prevent abortion. Fathers do not have to be notified prior to an abortion, the decision is left entirely in the hands of the mother.
HIPPA laws have very strong privacy rules preventing Healthcare Providers from sharing medical information to anyone else if the patient doesn’t want it. If you are the father of an unborn child, you have to get permission from the mother in order to view any medical records pertaining to your unborn child. If you cannot get permission, you are unable to review any medical documents about the health and welfare of your unborn child. However, showing that you are willing to support your unborn child medical care, even if you can only go so far as showing up at the doctor’s appointments and having medical staff witness the mother turning you away can help you with your case once the child is born.
The mother has the right to deny anyone permission to witness the birth of a child. If you are unwed you do not have the right to watch your childbirth unless the mother gives you explicit permission. However, you can still remain at the hospital if you are able to establish paternity right after the child is born. Any show of support can go a long way toward building your case long-term.
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In some situations, the mother might be considering adoption and unfortunately, the father’s legal rights to an unborn child don’t exist until the child is born. When it comes to adoption, the law requires consent from each parent so you have a short window of opportunity in which to protect your rights as a father and subsequently protest the adoption as long as you’re able to establish paternity. Even if the mother moved out of state while pregnant, you can still file objections with your state court to adoption, and having your paternity on record, as well as evidence of your support during pregnancy, can help you.
Custody is another situation that proves difficult for fathers during pregnancy because there are no legal rules stopping a pregnant mother from leaving the state and taking full custody of the baby prior to its birth. This is another example of where you can protect your rights to your unborn child by attempting to maintain contact with the mother and have documentation of that contact, providing financial support for tests or medical screening, and once the child is born, getting the help of an attorney to file for your custody rights as the paternal father.
How to protect your rights as a father?
There are many ways that you can protect your rights as a father even before the child is born.
Before the child is born…
Before a child is born there are a lot of tests and healthcare decisions that take place. As the father you might not be able to stop a mother from a healthcare decision or a medical decision however, contributing to the cost of prenatal care can go a long way toward legally demonstrating your commitment to the child.
Consider this: once a new baby is born, if the mother is unwed and decides to give it up for adoption, she has to prove that the father who is contesting the adoption has not attempted to make contact or provide any type of financial support. If you have made regular contact with the mother during pregnancy and contributed financially to routine medical screening, being present at doctor’s appointments and paying for medical treatment will be viewed positively by the courts as your attempt to maintain contact and contribute.
The best way to protect your rights as a father is to get a legal paternity test. Establishing paternity proof that you are the father although proving that you are the father does not automatically give you rights for custody or visitation, it can give you the legal grounds when it comes to a decision regarding the care of your child, such as medical treatment immediately after the child is born or visitation.
After the child is born…
Once the child is born, the best way paternity is to be at the hospital and put your name on the birth certificate. In some states, you can sign a legal document called the Affidavit of Parentage to establish your paternity. You can get this at the time the child is born and it immediately.
Once you have established your paternity you can file with your local courts to establish custody and visitation rights over your child.
At this point, you can apply for a custody order with the help of a qualified attorney which can include a provision that allows you access to your child’s medical information. This is only something that can be achieved after your child is born.
When to get an attorney for fathers rights before birth
Consider hiring an attorney if you are concerned about your father’s legal rights to an unborn child. An attorney can help you establish paternity and follow up with the courts by filing documents not only to establish paternity but give you rights over custody and visitation of your child.
If you are concerned for the health and safety of your unborn child because of domestic violence or any type of alcohol or drug abuse, you can contact Child Protective Services or the police regarding the welfare of your unborn child. During this time an investigation will take place and while your rights are still very limited until such time as a child is born, this can still buy you time while you work with an attorney to address other parental issues.
Overall it is best that as the unwed father of an unborn child you do what you can to maintain a healthy and positive relationship with the mother of your child and communicate with her even if you no longer have an intimate relationship. Remaining friendly might allow you to obtain information from her which can be useful down the line when trying to gain paternity and custody rights.
In some cases, if there was a great deal of animosity the mother might conceal her location and refuse to give you information about your child’s birth which is why staying cordial and communicative can help you long-term. If at all possible be present when the child is born. If the mother denies you permission to witness the birth, you cannot be in the room when the child is born but you might still have the opportunity to prove your paternity with the hospital & your acknowledgment of paternity immediately.