Like many other couples in New Hampshire, you and your partner may share a child even though you are not married. When your child was born, you put his or her name on the birth certificate, so you believed that you had all the rights and responsibilities that go along with being a father. You did not know at the time that this was not sufficient to establish you as the legal father of your child, but at the time, the only thing that mattered was caring for your child.
Then, your relationship with your child's mother ended, and you discovered that you don't have the right to custody or visitation because the courts don't recognize you as the legal father of your child. You may be panicking a bit at this point, but there is no need to do so. You can rectify the situation, but you will have to go through certain steps first.
Establishing your biological link to your child
Revealing the results of DNA testing may make for good daytime television, but the somewhat circus atmosphere created on those shows tends to diminish its importance. If you and your child's mother failed to fill out an acknowledgment of paternity form at the time of birth, you would need to participate in DNA testing.
This test establishes your biological link to your child and begins the process of allowing your legal rights to your child. Once the court sees that you are the child's biological father, you can pursue custody or visitation rights.
Dividing up time with the other parent
Now that the court legally recognizes you as the father of your child, you and the other parent can create a parenting plan. If your break up was amicable enough, you could negotiate a plan without the need to go to court. You can create a schedule, determine how to make decisions regarding the child's future and decide how to handle holidays, school events and even birthdays.
Your plan can be as detailed as the two of you would like. As long as it represents the best interests of your child, the court will more than likely approve your plan.
Getting help from the court to see your child
If the way your relationship ended doesn't allow for you and the other parent to work together regarding custody and visitation, you can request that the court enter an order. The court's decision will be based on what it believes is in the best interests of your child, which in many cases is providing the child as much access to each parent as possible.
Getting help in asserting your parental rights
Even if you and the other parent get along and want to work together, you still need to make sure that your rights are protected. Also, you want to make sure that any agreement the two of you reach will meet with the court's approval. Considering the importance of your efforts to assert your parental rights, you would likely benefit from having the help of an experienced legal advocate.