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Birth certificates without fathers raise child custody questions

The legal system in Kentucky has yet to catch up with the fact that an increasing number of children are not born to married parents. Current births to unmarried parents account for 40 percent of births. In 2007, the rate of births to unmarried parents was only 18 percent. The trend has raised the number of birth certificates that do not list fathers.

When men do not appear as fathers on birth certificates, they might be face legal hurdles when pursuing child custody. They must establish their biological paternity before courts will consider their custody petitions.

Single mothers might not know their exact custody status without investigating the child custody law. Women might mistakenly assume that they have sole legal custody when their children live with them and their birth certificates lack fathers. Some women, however, might have concerns about filing for formal custody because it could bring unwanted men back into their lives. Even a woman who has established legal custody might face a custody petition from a child's father if he establishes his paternity.

A parent who wants to understand laws about child custody may wish to consult a family law attorney. An attorney may inform a person about how to approach a court and request formal custody or modify an existing custody agreement. Prior to approaching a court, an attorney might serve as a negotiator so that two parents can decide how to schedule custody or visitation. In cases that involve paternity, an attorney may explain the steps for legally identifying the father. Legal support might allow a person to understand court procedures and prepare the correct paperwork. Advice from an attorney may aid a person who must answer questions in court.

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