An unmarried female who gives birth to a child in Ohio is automatically deemed the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child. This applies even if the couple is living together without being married. An unmarried father who wants custody must 1) establish parentage and 2) petition the court for custody and/or visitation. Signing the birth certificate and/or an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit does not give the father any right to custody of the child. Once the father petitions the court for custody, he has equal standing to the mother in the eyes of the court that is making the custody determination.
Unlike a child born to a married couple, where the husband is presumed to be the father until evidence is shown to the contrary, an unmarried man's name cannot be placed on the child's birth certificate or named the father without evidence of paternity. Paternity can be established voluntarily by completion of an Acknowledgement of Paternity affidavit. If the man is unwilling to sign the affidavit, paternity can be established by DNA testing.
Once parentage is determined, child support can be ordered. Often, paternity is established by one of the methods described above in an administrative process that was started when the mother made application for child support and/or public assistance benefits. Child support will be based on several factors, including the number of other children and each parent's income.
The existence of a child support order does not give the father an automatic right to custody or visitation. Even though his wages may be garnished for child support, the father cannot demand to visit with the child until he applies to the court for the right to see his child(ren). Although a great number of people manage to make an informal visitation agreement work without going to court, that arrangement cannot be enforced unless it is ordered by the court.