In a divorce, both parents typically have an equal right to receive child custody and visitation rights unless one is considered to be an unfit parent. However, this rule is a little different when the parents were never married. The laws vary from state to state and typically favor the mother. For example, in Minnesota, both parents must fill out a form in order to establish paternity.
When an unmarried couple has a child and then eventually splits up, sole child custody is usually awarded to the mother. Unless it can be proven that the mother is an unfit parent, the father will not, for the most part, receive custody. If his paternity is established, he can receive visitation rights.
Minnesota state law also requires a Recognition of Parentage Form that must be notarized and signed by both parents. It must then be submitted to the Department of Health in order to be valid. If the form is filled out properly, a relationship between the child and father is established. The form does not automatically establish custody, however. The father must request a court order to seek custody or support. Without this form, however, the father cannot fight for custody and the mother may not be able to receive child support.
Before signing any paperwork confirming one's paternity, the alleged father should understand his legal rights and responsibilities. Having a child means responsibility for education, healthcare benefits and financial support. Therefore, it may be a good idea to get the right information regarding this matter legal matter.
Source: FindLaw, "More Child Custody and Visitation FAQs," accessed Oct. 25, 2014