As a father, you will likely want to be a part of your child's life. But if you are not legally recognized as the father of your child, this can be extremely difficult. It can mean that you will be subject to whatever is convenient to the mother, and she may not want to give you any access to your child at all.
Therefore, if you want to have shared custody of your child, the first step is establishing legal paternity, if you haven't already. You will automatically have paternity if you were married to the mother at the time of the child's birth, or if your name is on the birth certificate. The mother can voluntarily acknowledge your paternity, but if she will not, you will have to request a DNA test in order for your paternity to be proven.
What are your rights as a legal father?
When you have your paternity established, you have the right to file for custody of your child. But you also have the responsibility to support the child financially. This may mean contributing through child support payments.
How does filing for custody work?
Child custody cases are a process where the courts make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child. This means that as long as you have no violent or criminal history and you are viewed to be a positive influence in your child's life, you will be eligible for shared custody.
Establishing paternity is an important first step in having a legal attachment to your child. This is crucial if you would like to gain custody in the future.
Source: The Spruce, "How to Establish Paternity & Why It Matters," accessed March 07, 2018