Alaska fathers may not have been married when their children were born, but that does not mean they aren’t rightful parents. If you break up with the mother, however, you might not be able to see your child again unless you take legal action.

The law does not guarantee you custody or visitation rights until you establish paternity. Paternity is your legal connection to your child. This label confirms that you are the father and deserve the same parenting rights as a married spouse.

In order to establish paternity, you will need to prove that you are the biological father, which you may verify through genetic DNA testing. This will allow you to pursue child custody so that you can continue to raise your child. If a court denies custody, you may still receive visitation rights to maintain the bond you have in other ways.

However, be aware that establishing paternity could also make you responsible for child support payments. The law sometimes requires legal fathers to help pay for their child’s expenses, including medical, food and shelter-related bills. These payments can help your child keep the same lifestyle they would have if you were living with or married to the mother.

Although mothers obtain automatic parenting rights as soon as the child is born, fathers do not have to suffer simply because of the biological process of birth. As a dad, you can continue to raise and love your child even if you are no longer with the mother. For this reason, establishing legal paternity is an indispensible opportunity for fathers.