What happens when your relationship with the unmarried mother of your newborn child collapses and she moves back in with her parents, taking the baby with her? Your options vary, depending on several different factors. These are the things that you need to consider.
You'll need to formally establish your paternity.
If you aren't married to your baby's mother, the first thing that you need to do in order to assert your rights is establish your paternity. Paternity, or legal acknowledgment of your fatherhood, isn't automatic when a couple isn't married. Establishing it is absolutely critical if you want to be able to get an order for visitation or custody. Until that happens, the only way that you can see your child is with the mother's permission. If she won't give it, you don't have any legal way to force her.
It also doesn't matter whether the baby was given your last name or not—that isn't enough to establish true paternity. However, you and the mother may have signed paperwork at the hospital shortly after the child was born that is enough to give you legal paternity. Depending on your state's law, you may have been able to sign the birth certificate if the mother agreed that you were the baby's father, and that's enough to establish your legal rights and obligations. In other states, you and the mother may have signed an affidavit instead.
If that wasn't done, you need to contact the either an attorney or the agency that handles child support in your area. They can help you get a DNA test that will establish your legal relationship with the child.
You'll need to petition the court for visitation or custody.
Once you've gotten over the hurdle of establishing your paternity, you still don't have a legal right to insist on visitation with the baby over the mother's objections. For that, you'll need a court order, which means taking the issue to family court. You can appeal to the court for a temporary order, allowing you visitation rights, until a formal, long-term decision can be made regarding custody.
One of the issues you may have is determining which court has jurisdiction over the custody issue. The rules of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act now determine which state is in control of the case. The state with the strongest, most direct relationship with your child will have control. If your child has lived long enough in the new state, that could potentially transfer jurisdiction there—which means that you would have to petition that state for custody instead of going through the court in your own state.
Child custody and visitation are often complicated issues—in order to protect your rights, talk to an attorney, such as John Alegria Attorney at Law, as soon as possible.