OKLAHOMA CITY – A new law is expanding the rights of a “presumed father.”
Governor Mary Fallin recently signed legislation into law that would give a family law judge the discretion to award temporary custody to a “presumed father” until a paternity test is conducted.
A “presumed father” is a person who is recognized by law to be the father of the child until paternity is confirmed or denied by a paternity test.
The “presumed father” would also have to be part of a paternity suit to have any claim under this new law.
State Rep. John Paul Jordan, author of the bill, says he knows this bill may sound confusing. However, he wants to make it sure everyone knows this legislation just allows a judge to determine who to award temporary custody to based on the best interest of the child.
“This legislation is easy to misunderstand so I want to be clear that it does not deal with the final placement of a child during a paternity action, but only the initial custody placement until a test can be conducted to determine paternity,” said Jordan. “It also does not relate to adoption, divorce or other actions involving parents. It only relates to paternity actions where the parents of a child are unmarried and custody, visitation, child support and child care are the issues at hand.”
Jordan says current law does not provide a father with any custody or visitation rights until paternity is established.
“The issue arose from a paternity case I was working on right before the legislative session,” Jordan said. “The child was 18 months old. The parents were young and had met while partying. Mom and dad had lived together while mom was pregnant. After the child was born, dad got a job and cleaned up his act to raise a child. Mom tried to clean up but ultimately wanted to go out with her friends. When the child was approximately 6 months old mom abandoned the child with dad. Dad took care of the child on his own for the remaining 12 months. Mom filed for state assistance and was told to file a Paternity Action.
“When they got to court mom testified that she had been sleeping around at the time she got pregnant and was uncertain if dad was the actual father of the child. Under the current law the Judge was unable to leave the child in the care of dad, and dad had no visitation rights of the child he had cared for over a year.
“Upon checking with other family law judges and attorneys this is a common practice by unwed mothers to delay proceedings or to deny a father visitation.”
The new law will take effect on Nov. 1.