Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Unmarried fathers' questions about visitation and other rights

When married couples expect a child, the father-to-be is often as involved in the pregnancy as the mother. Unfortunately, unmarried expecting fathers are often denied that involvement. Under Massachusetts laws, the husband of a pregnant woman is regarded as the father of the child, while this is not assumed in the case of an unmarried father. Paternity can only be established after the birth of a child, so unless the mother recognizes a man as the father of her unborn child, without establishing paternity, an unmarried father may not have any legal rights during the pregnancy; however, he may have visitation and other rights if he is the legal father.

Some expecting fathers may be concerned about the health of the unborn child, but without the consent of the mother, he will not be allowed any access to medical reports. Fathers will face the same dilemma if the expecting mother abuses drugs or alcohol during the pregnancy. Although some states regard such abuse during pregnancy as child abuse, not all states will take action prior to a child's birth, and the father can do nothing to stop the abuse.

Giving a child up for adoption is often a great concern for a father. While a child may not be given up for adoption without the consent of both parents, an unrecognized father's approval is not necessary. A man who believes he is the father of a child may seek the assistance of the court by filing an acknowledgment of paternity in an attempt to prevent his child from being adopted by another family.

An unmarried father who provides financial and emotional support to the expecting mother throughout the pregnancy may find it easier to obtain visitation rights once the child is born. Concerned unmarried fathers in Massachusetts may benefit from consulting with an experienced family law attorney to learn about their rights. Questions and concerns will be answered and addressed according to applicable state laws.

Source: Findlaw, "Fathers' Rights Before Birth", Accessed on March 21, 2015

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