What Are Your Parental Rights Without a Court Order?

A question I get often is what are my parental rights if there is no custody order in place?

In most states, the answer is it depends.

If you were married to the other parent, and are listed on the child’s birth certificate, then you are recognized as the parent of the child.  Therefore, you have parental rights to custody.  If there has been no court order for custody, then both parents have equal rights to custody of the child.  The parents can either come up with an agreement, or go to court to get a formal order.

If the parents are unmarried, and the father is not listed on the birth certificate, then the father is not recognized as having any parental rights.  Therefore, if there is no court order for custody, then the father has no rights to legal or physical custody.  The father must either sign an affidavit of acknowledgment of paternity, or get a DNA test to affirm paternity.  Once the paternity is affirmed, the father has parental rights to the custody of the child.  If paternity has been established, but there is no court order regarding custody, then both parents have equal rights to the custody of the child.

It is important to determine who has parental rights for two reasons.  First, without parental rights, Parent A has no right to see or visit the child if Parent B refuses to cooperate.  Second, without parental rights, Parent B will not be able to get child support for the child if Parent A is not recognized as the parent.

2 Thoughts to “What Are Your Parental Rights Without a Court Order?”

  1. Amy

    What if there’s a request for modification that’s going on and one parent has “supervised” visits? Can that parent attend school activities? Bring things to the other parents house for them? Or do complete strangers have more access to the child?

  2. Sonali Khadilkar

    Hi Amy,
    It depends on the court order. Usually supervised visits are ordered because there is some concern with the parent being alone with the child. If there is no civil protective order in place, usually you can attend activities in public. However, I would discuss your case with a lawyer.

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