Can My Ex-Husband Take My Child and Keep My Child From Me?

Full Question:

I had my daughter two years before we were married in 1999. In 2002, he took off with her to Michigan and has threatened if I come for her he will take off with her again. I need to know if he even has any rights since we were not married at the time of her birth.
06/23/2009   |   Category: Divorce ยป Child Custody   |   State: Oregon   |   #17158


In the absence of a court order determining rights of custody or visitation to a child, a person having a right of custody of the child commits the crime of parental kidnapping if he removes, takes, detains, conceals, or entices away that child within or without the state, without good cause, and with the intent to deprive the custody right of another person or a public agency also having a custody right to that child. Interference with custody is a crime governed primarily by state laws, which vary by state, and seeks to protect parental custody against unlawful interruption. It is intended to address long-term interference with child custody rights.

The answer will depend in part on whether you obtained a divorce and whether there is currently a custody order in effect. Unmarried fathers have rights and duties similar to those of married fathers. Couples who are living together but are not married should take steps to ensure that both are recognized as the legal parents. Both parents can be listed on the birth certificate. A parent who is not listed may be able to be added after the birth of a child if the parent contacts the state Bureau of Vital Statistics in which the birth took place. The father will be shown on the birth certificate if he acknowledges paternity when or close in time to the birth, or the court orders the birth certificate to be changed to reflect the father’s name. A father can acknowledge paternity by signing a written admission or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or paternity may be established by filing a civil lawsuit. Generally, paternity must be established for the father to seek custody and/or visitation rights with his child. Paternity refers to the legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a father and his child.

When children are born out of wedlock paternity may be established if the father voluntarily signs a declaration stating they are the biological father or if they involve the court by filing a paternity case. A court will not automatically order paternity tests simply because a paternity action has been filed. It will review the petition to determine if there is sufficient information contained therein to warrant or justify the compelling of such a test. If the court orders a paternity test, the mother, child, and alleged father will be tested at a court-designated facility.

In most states, when a child is born to an unmarried mother, if there is no adjudication or registration of paternity, the mother has custody. Even after paternity has been adjudicated or registered, as long as there is no court order on custody, many states presume that the mother has custody of the child. Unmarried parents without custody, however, are entitled to the same visitation rights as divorced parents, absent extraordinary factors such as abuse or domestic violence. Once paternity has been established, a father has the right to seek custody of or visitation with his child. In determining custody issues, the court will generally consider the best interest of the child and may consider such factors as parental unfitness or the potential harm to the child. If the parties cannot agree to visitation rights, the court may be petitioned to request visitation rights. If the parties cannot agree on paternity, custody and child support, they should seek the assistance of an attorney who routinely handles paternity matters.

Parents are legally obligated to provide their children with all the necessities of life. The failure of parents to marry does not affect their responsibility to support their children. If parents are unmarried and cannot agree upon how much each should contribute toward the support of their children, the courts may decide. A court can order one parent to make specified payments to the other for child support. State laws provide that biological parents make all the decisions involving their children, including education, health care, and religious upbringing. Parents are not required to secure the legal right to make these decisions if they are married and are listed on the child's birth certificate. However, if there is disagreement about who has the right to make these decisions courts can decide.

In Oregon, the father's paternity may be established as follows:

(a) A man is rebuttably presumed to be the father of a child born to a woman if he and the woman were married to each other at the time of the child's birth, without a judgment of separation, regardless of whether the marriage is void.

(b) A man is rebuttably presumed to be the father of a child born to a woman if he and the woman were married to each other and the child is born within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment or dissolution or after entry of a judgment of separation.

(c) By the marriage of the parents of a child after the birth of the child, and the parents filing with the State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form as provided for by ORS 432.287.

(d) By paternity proceedings.

(e) By filing with the State Registrar of the Center for Health Statistics the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form as provided for by ORS 432.287. Except as otherwise provided in subsections (2) to (4) (4) to (7) of this section, this filing establishes paternity for all purposes.

(f) By having established paternity through a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity process in another state.

(g) By paternity being established or declared by other provision of law.

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