In many states, an unmarried mother has sole rights to her child. The unmarried father does not have any rights at all unless he seeks them and establishes paternity. The unmarried mother is considered the child’s only parent; she makes all decisions for her child.
A woman should check with her state laws to determine if she is presumed to have sole custody because some states still recognize the father in unmarried situations. In Oklahoma, for example, the court presumes that the mother has sole custody when the parents were unmarried at the time of the child’s birth and no father is on the birth certificate; however, in other states, like Michigan, the court presumes that an unwed mother only has initial custody – as opposed to sole custody – even when the father is not on the birth certificate and has never acknowledged paternity. Some jurisdictions make no presumption of custody based on whether the father is on the birth certificate, or presume joint custody even in cases where the parents were never married.