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If you are the father of a child who you share with someone you have never married, you are far from alone. In 2019, more than a million infants were born out of wedlock in the United States. With that said, there are some unique challenges that you may face in this situation if you are going through a child custody battle.

Because parental involvement is critical to a child’s early development, it plays a big role in how courts decide child custody proceedings. Unmarried fathers who do not live with the mother of their child should make an extra effort to fit in quality time that will contribute to their son or daughter’s growth. If you are unsure where to start, consider these three essentials.

1. Be positively engaged

Before you can expect a judge to grant you visitation or custody of your child, you need to prove that you have direct interaction with him or her in positive ways. This includes doing parental tasks like changing diapers, reading stories and playing games.

2. Be accessible

In addition to having direct interaction, involved fathers also need to be accessible to children. For example, when your child is playing alone in his room and hurts himself, are you nearby to assist? Being home and being around even when you are not socializing matters.

3. Be responsible

Involved fathers also take ultimate responsibility for the well-being of their children. From medical decisions to school choices and other child-rearing arrangements, responsible fathers take a seat at the table when all of these conversations occur.

If you are making an effort to play a positive, active and nurturing role in your child’s life, it can significantly help your child’s visitation or custody case.