There is a big difference between a married father’s rights and an unmarried father’s rights to see his child. What rights does a father have to see his child? A married father shares equal custody rights (legal decision making and parenting time) to see his child vs an unmarried father who has no custody rights unless he can establish paternity. A married father shares legal and physical custody of their child. Legal custody includes welfare, health, educational, and legal decision making involving the child.
The Rights Of The Unmarried Father
Traditionally, fathers who are unmarried have found the field of parental rights difficult to navigate because there was a lack of laws in their favor to establish and enforce their rights. However, times have changed, and it is no longer easy for a biological mother to prevent the biological father from creating a legal relationship with their child or children. In today’s world, there are now many options for fathers to assert paternity through the legal system.
Paternity is a legal determination establishing the biological father of a child (or children). Paternity can be established by filing an “acknowledgment” statement with your state’s department of vital records. To make it valid and binding, it must be signed by both parents. Should the mother of the child (or children) make an objection to your claim of paternity, it can be established once you have a filed a paternity suit in your local court. A judge will consider the paternity case and make a determination regarding the biological father of the child or children. The court will order a DNA or blood test to determine biological fatherhood. A judge can also make a determination on custody or visitation rights as part of the paternity suit process. If the DNA matches, the paternity case proceeds. Without a DNA match, the case will be dismissed because you are not the Father.
Married Father’s Rights to His Child
According to Arizona Law, married fathers share equal custody rights, also known as legal decision making, with the mother of their child. In you are a married father in Arizona, you are automatically presumed to be the biological father of the child. This means you do not have to establish paternity in order to participate in major decision such as religious training, education, or medical treatment. Sharing equal custody also means you could be responsible for child support and more in the event of a divorce.
A Fathers’ Custody Rights
Once your child (or children) are born, the court will make a presumption you are the father, if you were married to the mother at the time of the birth. If you have established paternity, you could get custodial rights to your child even if you were unmarried at the time of the birth of the child. Legal custody of a child gives the parent the authority to do the following:
- Right to make decisions about the welfare of the child.
- Right to make decisions about the medical care of the child.
- Right to make decisions about the religious upbringing care of the child.
- Right to make decisions about the education of the child.
The term “physical custody” refers to the living arrangements of the child (or children.) As a Dad, you are equal in this regard as Mothers do not have any additional entitlement to the custody of their child (or children) absent a showing of questionable parental fitness.
A Joint Parenting Plan agreement may be arranged between the father and the mother of the child (or children.) Otherwise, the court can decide this on your behalf. A Judge will turn the schedule of parenting into a binding visitation and custody order that must be followed by both parents. If the terms of the agreement are not being maintained, you may ask the court to intervene. This is taken very seriously as the parent who does not obey the terms of a custody order can face fines, even jail time as well as be held in contempt of court.
Child Support Payments
Fathers who have primary custody of the child (or children) have the same rights to receive child support as mothers who have primary custody of the child (or children.) Even in circumstances where a parent is interfering with visitation rights, child support must still be paid on time. When a parent is preventing you from visitation with your child (or children) it is time to consult a family law attorney.
If My Child’s Mother Remarries, What Are My Rights?
Typically, your rights as a biological parent take priority over the rights of a stepparent. Think very carefully, if the stepparent of your child (or children) desires to adopt the kids. Generally, adoption will end your rights as a parent. Visitation previously ordered by the court will no longer be valid. The new parents will have no obligation under current law to allow you access to your child (or children.)
Frequently Asked Questions To Your Attorney
- I have already acknowledged paternity as I was convinced, I was the father of my girlfriend’s child. It turns out I have discovered I the child is not mine. I want to get a divorce but need to know if I will have custody rights for a while I have raised as if he were my own child?
- I want more time with my children. How can I get this?
- I am being prevented visits by the Mother of my children, what should I do?
- The other parent has custody but wants the child to move in with me. Once the child has moved in, do I need to keep paying child support to the other parent?
Fathers’ Rights: You’re a Parent Too! www.lawyers.com/legal-info/family-law/paternity/shes-your-child-too.html.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.