There are thousands of loving, hard-working fathers in Ohio who are not married to the mothers of their children. Many of these men don’t really understand what rights they have as the father of a child. That can lead to them feeling like they have no option but to disappear if their relationship with the mother eventually ends.

While it is true that married fathers have a presumption of paternity where unmarried fathers do not, that doesn’t mean that you can’t establish yourself as the legal father of your child and play a significant role in their life by seeking shared custody with your ex.

What do you need to do if you want custody?

Shared custody typically benefits the children where the parents have broken up. It is critical for children to have both parents involved in their lives. As a father, stepping up by asking for shared custody may initially cause some conflicts with the mother of your child, but your actions will have a long-term benefit for your kid.

In order to get shared custody, you need to establish paternity. If the mother of your child already listed you on the birth certificate or if the two of you filled out paperwork to acknowledge your paternity, the only step left for you to take may be to go to the family courts and ask for a custody hearing. If you aren’t on the birth certificate, you may first need to establish paternity.

How do you prove that you are the father of a child?

Proving paternity can be relatively easy if the mother of the child agrees to cooperate with you. The two of you can fill out some paperwork, which she may be happy to do because she wants you to be a positive influence on the children you share.

If she doesn’t agree to acknowledge you as the father, that doesn’t mean you lose out on all your options. You can ask that the state order genetic testing to verify your paternity. Genetic tests provide accurate answers with less than a 1% margin of error. Once you establish paternity, the next step will be to present your case to the courts about the role you want to play in the lives of your children.

Getting help from an attorney familiar with Ohio family law can make establishing paternity and requesting shared custody an easier process.