You don’t need to get married to be a good father, and you certainly don’t have to have a spouse to have a child. Just because you never marry the mother of your child doesn’t mean that if your relationship with her ends, your relationship with a child ends too. You have rights as well as responsibilities as a parent in Indiana.
There are steps that you can take in order to be there for your child and fulfill your obligations as a father. If you want shared custody or visitation, you are going to first have to establish paternity in compliance with Indiana law.
The state needs to acknowledge you as the father
In order to be a parent, the state needs to know you’re a parent. Provided that the mother of your child is willing to work with you, you can arrange to have your name added to the birth certificate via a paternity affidavit. You can fill out a form at the hospital on the same day that your child is born, or you can work with the mother to execute the document anytime while your child is still a minor.
In the event that she is not willing to cooperate or acknowledge you as the father, you will likely have to go to the family courts and request their assistance. They can order genetic testing, which can also affirm your paternity.
What happens after you establish paternity?
Once the state has proof via voluntary documentation or genetic testing that you are the father, you can then initiate a custody request. You may request shared custody, visitation or even primary custody if you think that your child would have a better and more stable life with you the majority of the time.
If the mother of the child cooperates, you can work collaboratively to produce a parenting plan. If she resents your request for parenting time, the courts may have to step in and set that parenting plan for you. Once they do so, the option will always exist in the future to request a modification and possibly more time with your child if your circumstances change.