Ohio holds marriage in high regard. As evidence of this, consider how state law frames questions of paternity. Fatherhood of a child is presumed only in certain circumstances. These include:
- When a man is married to the child's mother and the child was born during the marriage or within 300 days of when the marriage ended.
- If the couple tried to marry before the birth but the union was declared invalid for some reason.
Outside of marriage, an unwed father can establish paternity by completing an official form at the hospital when the child is born. If that isn't possible, either parent can work through their local Child Support Enforcement Agency or the courts to achieve parental status.
However, if no action is taken by the unwed couple, the law automatically grants custody of the child to the mother. She enjoys all parenting rights and the father has few. The mother may even give up the child for adoption without the father's consent or knowledge.
This surfaces as a subject worth addressing in light of the recent birth of a child to Khloé Kardashian and the NBA's Tristan Thompson. According to news reports, the child was born April 12 in Cleveland to the unwed couple. Despite rumors of cheating on Thompson's part, tabloids say it's rumored he was on hand for the delivery. However, the question of established paternity remains.
Under the law, Thompson is recognized as an equal parent. But observers note that if he has not filed necessary papers to acknowledge his fatherhood, he has no visitation or parenting rights.
If we assume Thompson has not filed those papers and is slow to act, there's a chance he could face more significant legal drama later. If Kardashian returns to California resides there with the child for at least six months, California might be able to exercise jurisdiction over any custody dispute that results.
What this reflects is the importance of consulting with experienced counsel to ensure that unwed parents - whether mother or father - know their options for protecting their rights and interests.