When a child is born to unmarried parents in North Carolina, one or both parents may seek to have the child legitimized. This will result in both parents having the same rights and obligations as if the child had been born to them in wedlock. This means that both parents are responsible for supporting the child, and if one parent dies, the child can inherit assets from that parent.
There are several routes parents can take to legitimize a child. A father may apply by petition to the superior court in the county where either he or the child lives. If the parents marry after the child's birth, this also legitimizes the child.
The process may be more complex if the mother is married to someone else. The other spouse is also a party to the proceedings in that case, and the biological father must prevent convincing evidence that the child is his. After any process of legitimization, a new birth certificate may be issued with the father's name on it.
In some cases, the next step for a father after establishing legitimacy may be to seek child custody or visitation rights. Courts generally agree that a child benefits from time with both parents as long as there are no serious problems such as domestic violence or drug or alcohol abuse. However, if a father can demonstrate commitment to a child, there is a better chance that they will be granted a more favorable visitation schedule. If the child is older, this might mean attending activities the child participates in or helping with schoolwork. With younger children, courts may tend to award more time to the mother. Fathers might want to discuss the situation with an attorney and how they can best show their willingness to participate in parenting.