By far the most common problem I encounter as a family law attorney is the issue of child custody where the mom and dad were not married to each other. About two years ago, Sally came to me for help. She gave birth 13 years ago to a baby boy. She and the sperm doner father had an oral agreement on visitation but when dad didn't return the baby to her after his weekend, she discovered that dad had taken the baby and didn't tell her where he went. 13 years later, she was still looking for him and she came to me for help. She told me that she may have found him on facebook but she didn't know what to do. The police couldn't help as there were no orders in place for them to enforce. The DA's office also couldn't help. Had mom sought a paternity action immediately on the birth of her son, she could have save herself 13 years of misery. We finally found the son and have been able to reestablish a relationship but the relationship will take years to heal.
If you are a single mother and you have given birth and you are not married to the father. Then you need to take action immediately. First, file a Petition to Determine Paternity. This will give the court the immediate power tomake orders on the legal custody and physical custody of the child. At the same time, ask the court to set a date to order visitation and make child support orders. This will give you the right, that in the event that Dad doesn't pay child support, you can seek help from the District Attorney on enforcement of the child support orders. Or you can seek government help for child support and the county or state in which you live will go after Dad to reimburse the county or state for giving you financial support.
These orders will also prevent Dad from taking the child out of the state or even the country. This wil give you the power to ask the government to enforce the orders and if Dad does want to take the child out of the state or country, then you can request that Dad provide you with an airline ticket prepaid in case you need to go an get the child and bring the child back to your home state and county.
Just because you gave birth and named the Dad on the birth certificate, this doesn't automatically establish that Dad is the legal father. This is the job of a court and the court can only do this when you file the Paternity Petition with the court.