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Do I need to establish paternity in Maryland for child custody?

For a lot of people, becoming a parent is a wonderful thing. Most can hardly wait to start spending time with their children and teaching them the ways of the world. While this may be easy for married parents, for unmarried parents, the process is far more difficult.

For unmarried parents, a father may encounter pushback from the child's mother such as denied requests to see the child or an inability to retain custody of the child for any length of time. Though it may be possible for some unmarried parents to work through custody and visitation schedules without the help of a judge; in situations like the one we just mentioned, the involvement of the court may be necessary.

This leads us to today's question: Do I need to establish paternity in Maryland for child custody?

The answer depends on whether or not you want to assert your parental rights and gain access to your child. If you desire custody or a visitation schedule and you are an unmarried parent, then you need to establish paternity in Maryland before you are granted parental rights.

As we explained in a post last year, there are three major ways an unmarried father can establish paternity: through a paternity test, an Affidavit of Parentage or by marrying the child's mother. Whether paternity is established through genetic testing or by a signed legal document that acknowledges the link between father and child, it's important for an unmarried father to do this prior to making claims in Court as it will help him assert his rights more effectively.

Of course, simply being able to prove a paternal link may not be enough in most custody disputes, which is why unmarried parents should also consider speaking with a skilled family law attorney who can help establish parental rights and a fair custody agreement.

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