Paternal Rights

Paternal Rights

Overview

Whenever family court proceedings involve a minor child, several rights and obligations may come into play, including custody, visitation and financial support. Whether you are a father, mother, or grandparent of a minor child that is part of a divorce or paternity proceeding, you may need to request orders from the court in order to ensure access to the child and to guarantee that the child is receiving adequate care.

Below we explore some of the basics of paternal rights for fathers, mothers, and grandparents.

Father’s Rights

Overview

A minor child’s father has certain legally recognized rights that can include everything from family planning to schooling to religion and health insurance.  The father can request court orders be made for custody, visitation and child support, and the father can ask for the right to be consulted before adoption or guardianship orders are entered.

Family Planning

A father has certain rights when it comes to the care and supervision of the child. There are no legally recognized rights granted to a father when it comes to carrying a pregnancy to term.  Even if a father protests the pregnancy, he can still be held responsible for child support. When it comes to adoption, a father can object to adoption proceeds and petition the court for custody.

Unmarried Fathers

If the parents of the minor child are not married when the child is born, the father must initiate a paternity action in the courts in order to obtain legal rights to the child.  There are several ways to initiate a paternity action with the court, from submitting a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity to filing a Petition to Establish Paternity.  Custody, visitation and child support can all be requested as part of a paternity action.

You can read more about Paternity actions here.

Child Custody and Visitation

A father can petition the court for custody and visitations orders pertaining to the minor child, even if the parents are not married.  Custody and visitation orders can be generally be requested as part of a divorce or paternity proceeding. Several different options are available when it comes to splitting parental time between both parents, and the court will always to defer to what the judge considers is in the best interest of the child.

You can read more about child custody and visitation here [insert link to child custody overview]

Child Support

Both parents are legally responsible for providing for the care and wellbeing of the child.  This can include regular child support payments as well as additional expenses including schooling, extracurricular activities, and health care.  If you have been ordered by the court to make child support payments, it is important that you satisfy your obligation.  Failure to do so could result in several punitive actions from the court, including losing your license, wage garnishment, being charged interest and fees, and in some cases you even risk jail time.

You can read more about child support here.

Additional Rights

In many states, fathers also have rights regarding healthcare, school activity and paternity leave.  Fathers can usually request the right to see and obtain copies of the child’s medical records and other health related documents. A father can also request the ability to sign school activity permission slips or to participate in school related events or activities like participation in sports, clubs, and other academic pursuits.  Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a father may also have rights to unpaid paternity leave to spend time with a newborn child.

 

Mothers Rights

Overview

Generally speaking, the mother of a minor child is generally recognized as the parent at the moment of birth.  As such, a mother will initially be able to make all decisions regarding the health and welfare of the child. A mother also has the right to seek child support from the child’s father, even if the father has no plans to co-parent the child.

Custody and Visitation

While in the past mothers were given deference by the courts when making custody and visitation decisions, more recently courts work hard to make sure that both parents have equal access and obligation to the child.  A mother can request custody and visitation orders as part of a divorce proceeding or paternity action, and the child’s father has a right to request court action as well.

You can read more about child custody and visitation here.

Child Support

Both parents are legally responsible for providing for the care and wellbeing of the child.  This can include regular child support payments as well as additional expenses including schooling, extracurricular activities, and health care.  If you have been ordered by the court to make child support payments, it is important that you satisfy your obligation.  Failure to do so could result in several punitive actions from the court, including losing your license, wage garnishment, being charged interest and fees, and in some cases you even risk jail time.

You can read more about child support here.

Grandparents Rights

When a family unit dissolves or is separated, Grandparents are often left struggling to define what rights they may have to visitation with their grandchildren.

While not all states recognize Grandparents Rights, in many cases through cooperation and available court action, grandparents can ensure access to their grandchildren.

All 50 U.S.  states have a “grandparent visitation” statute that allows grandparents to ask a court to grant them the legal right to maintain ongoing contact with their grandchildren. However, establishing your rights as a grandparent for full or partial custody of your grandchild or grandchildren can be a challenging and stressful process. Our job is to help you through the steps of that process and achieve the best outcome possible.

If you wish to establish guardianship of your grandchild, understanding your rights in the care is extremely important. If you are involved in legal issues related to your guardianship, you’ll want to understand how to best represent yourself. Obtaining legal representation to assist in a guardianship case can be extremely expensive.

We can help you on the path to organizing your thoughts, understanding what rights you have, and preparing to take the appropriate next steps. If needed, we can also refer you to an attorney.

Areas where we can assist you:

* Full custody

* Joint custody

* Custody laws in your state

* Child support

* Modification of existing custody arrangement

When determining rights of visitation for cases involving grandparents or close relatives, a preexisting relationship with the child is key. The courts will always defer to what the judge determines is in the best interest of the child, and a strong pre-existing relationship can help influence the final decision.  Because the courts presume that parents are acting in their child’s best interest, grandparents facing parental obstruction should expect to present significant evidence to establish the benefit of continued access to the child.

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