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Another soon-to-be father wonders about his parental rights across long-distance

Your Question:
i am a 21 year old father to be and i need all the advice i can get. my ex girlfriend and i seperated in late july and she moved about 3 hours away from me to Reno to live with her father. A couple of days after she moved out she told me that she was pregnant with my child, i was so scared when she told me that i basically didn't talk to anybody for about a month i spoke with her about once a week then after the 3rd month i was so busy working my butt off to put money in the bank, that she took it as me not wanting to be apart of my babies life. i have about five months until birth and the mother has already met someone that she claims to be in love with, some guy in his 30's that i know is just a rebound guy. my dilema is that this new flame of her doesn't care for me very much, infact he wants to move her to the other side of the country so that he doesn't have to worry about me getting in between them. can she just move like that? can i do anything about it? i am going to die if i don't get to be apart of my babies life, i spent most of my teenage life raising my too younger siblings and i hold strong family values, i need to know what i can do to prevent her from taking my baby away. just for the record, she is a wonderful person and will be an incredible mother. please help me, with any wisdom you can offer. i want to know if i have any rights to this child. please put me on the right path

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

You've got plenty of time to position yourself to be involved with the child from birth. But you can't really do anything legally until the child is born.

Ideally, by the time the child is born, you'll have some sort of correspondence (a letter? an email?) where the mother has made reference to you being the father. That helps put you on the map, when the child is born.

IF you are the father, it's irrelevant if her current boyfriend doesn't like you. The way the law works is that YOU will be protected from anyone interfering with court orders. If you do something stupid to interfere with her boyfriend(s), then that's a whole other issue. But the boyfriend is irrelevant, as all future boyfriends will be unless they're a threat to the child. Ignore the boyfriend thing, even though it may cause you pain. That's wholly separate from being a father.

Per your own admission, this woman is a good person and you predict she'll be a good, responsible mother. So, that significantly reduces your chances at getting custody. As an unwed mother, when the child is born, she will have 100% custody and control of the child until you get court orders that establish you as the dad and give you parental rights.

So, you need to be all set to go as soon as the baby is born. You'll probably want to do a DNA test to confirm (unless you and mother both sign the court papers that state you are the father).

Other things you should do, if your primary goal is to be involved with this child:

  • Take a parenting class within the next 5 months. You may not need it, but it will impress a judge at your first court hearing.

  • Prepare to move in 4 months to wherever the mother is living. If it's Reno, it's Reno. If it's on the east coast, it's on the east coast. You can't stop her from moving, and it will be impossible for a judge to come up with a parenting plan that has you highly involved from 200 or 2000 miles away. Find a place within a few miles of her home, right around the time of birth. You're not doing it to stalk her-- you're doing it to put a mother and a father both in close proximity to their child. Then, once the baby is born, filing a paternity action in court will likely also restrict the mother from moving the baby out of state without further court orders.

  • Continue to work your butt off to put money in the bank... for a lawyer and child support. Once you move to where the mother is living at the time of birth, you want to retain one and file immediately. Even though it may cost a few thousand dollars, you'll likely get as-best-as-possible parenting plan for your circumstances, and you'll avoid many common mistakes that would create longer-term chaos and conflict.

  • Once the child is born, use an online child support calculator (there are many free ones, just do a google search) for the child's state of residence. You'll get a ballpark amount for the child support you can expect to pay. As soon as the child is born, set aside that amount every month into a savings account. It's possible that you will eventually be ordered to pay child support back to the initial date of the paternity filing in court, and you don't want to be suddenly stuck owing a wad of cash with no way to pay it.

  • Purchase the book Win Your Child Custody War, which will give you all the knowledge you need for this, help you understand what's relevant, and help give you more confidence in your position. You can get it on Amazon (I describe it on my What You Must Have page).

Finally, I know you're a mess of emotions right now and you want to do the right thing for this child. Your FIRST order of business will be to ensure that you're the father. This may sound callous, but if you're NOT the father, you can walk away from this mess with just a painful lesson in the importance of condom usage or abstinance prior to marriage. It's awful to co-parent with a person who doesn't want you involved, and it's not likely to change. The child is going to have challenges in life, no matter who the father is, but at least you're saying the mother is a good person (save for her intent to deny a father to her child???).

Good luck, and please keep me informed.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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