Ask A Divorce Lawyer: How do I get visitation rights?

Question: 

My ex-girlfriend and I have split up, and she is refusing to let me see my 2-month-old daughter. She just wants to fight about the past and can’t let go. Now she is using our daughter as leverage over me. I don’t know where to go from here. Do you have any advice on how I can get rights to visit my daughter?

 

 

 
Answer:

 

Although I am licensed to practice law in Michigan, Cordell & Cordell, P.C. does have offices in St. Louis, St. Charles, Arnold and Lee’s Summit, Missouri, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney formally because I can only give you general information about paternity cases. You should not rely upon this information as creating an attorney-client relationship.

The answer to your question depends on a few different things – the myriad facts, of course, and most notably, how paternity was established, if at all. In general, if you signed your daughter’s birth certificate or filed a form titled “Acknowledgment of Paternity” with the State, or if a court adjudicated your paternity, then you enjoy limited rights, but not necessarily custodial rights. You confirm that you are the biological father and become responsible for your daughter’s financial and medical support until her adulthood, but you do not automatically receive custodial rights. You only have the right to seek those rights.

In most states, you would have to file an action for child custody and/or parenting time. If paternity has not been established, then you should attempt to do so immediately. Your rights can be hampered if your daughter’s mother was married at her conception or birth. Also be aware that courts tend to render decisions that maintain the child’s established custodial environment. An established custodial environment is a physical and a psychological environment where the child naturally looks for care, comfort, guidance and life’s necessities.

My concern based on the facts you provided is whether your daughter’s current custodial arrangement is established. You may face a considerable burden. However, the standards for custody modification vary by state. You should contact an attorney if you want to pursue time with your daughter immediately, as there are complicated filing requirements to follow.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

 

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