What are a teen father's rights?

Written by kristen marquette
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What are a teen father's rights?
Paternity of a child must be established before an unwed, teenage boy has any parental rights to his child. (Teenage boy image by GeoM from Fotolia.com)

When a teenage boy learns that a girl is pregnant with his child, he has the right to confirm that the pregnancy exists as well as if the unborn child is his. To obtain his rights to the child, he must establish paternity. Once he does that, he has the same--and responsibilities--as any other father and must arrange child custody and support through the court system.

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Paternity

For a teenage boy to gain any rights to his child, he must first legally identify himself as the father through paternity. Paternity of the child is automatically assumed when the couple is married. If the teenager is not married to the mother, which is most likely the case, he declares paternity by signing paternity documents indicating that he is the father, performing a DNA test or applying through a court order. If the mother of the child wishes to collect child support from the father, paternity must be established and the State can order a paternity test.

Custody

The right to make choices for the child and the accountability to provide for the child belong to the custodial parent. Upon birth, unmarried mothers—even teenage ones—have automatic legal custody of the child. However, as soon as the unmarried father proves paternity, his rights equal those of the mother. Once the unmarried parents have equal rights, the courts will determine custody and visitation rights based on the best interest of the child, not the gender of the parent.

Child Support

It does not matter if the parents of a child are minors; both the father and the mother are responsible for providing care, protection and education for their child. If the paternity of the child remains unproven, the alleged father does not have to pay child support. But upon proof of paternity, it is the father’s responsibility to care for his child financially. However, if the teenage boy has custody of the child, the mother must pay him child support. If either parent cannot afford to pay child support, the courts can adjust the amount. Should the teenage father receive a court order to pay child support and ignore it, the court could suspend the boy’s license, garnish part of his paycheck or possibly hold him in contempt of court, which means he would be arrested and jailed.

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