Parental rights are a family law concept. They refer to the legal rights of mothers and fathers to make decisions and take actions on behalf of their child or children. These rights may include the right to custody, visitation, to make medical decisions for the child, to enter into a contract on behalf of the child, and to pass an inheritance on to the child.
Every state has established its own laws with regard to parental rights, but the goal of the courts when making decisions with regard to parental rights is always to do whatever is in the best interests of the child.
The establishment of parental rights is relatively simple for married couples in the State of Oregon—in fact, parental rights over the child of a married couple is presumed by law and must be rebutted or proved otherwise for the law to recognize anything other than the married couple’s parental rights.
Parental rights for unmarried couples can be a bit more complex. While the parental rights of biological unmarried parents are technically the same as those of a married couple, the unmarried couple must first establish the paternity of the child for any unmarried father to be able to assert his parental rights.
Unmarried mothers are inherently granted parental rights since maternity is obviously established at birth. However, in order for paternity to be established for an unmarried father, either both parents must agree to the paternity by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital or at any time after the child’s birth, or it must be proven in court through a filiation proceeding using methods such as DNA testing.
Without a legal establishment of paternity, an unmarried father cannot assert his parental rights over a child. However, once paternity has been established, a father may file a petition in court to be granted custody, parenting time, and child support.
Oregon courts consider the parental rights of biological mothers and fathers to be equal. Either parent may go to court to assert that parental rights and the courts will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.
Learn more about parental rights