Fathers' rights issues are becoming increasingly prevalent in the arena of family law. Many fathers feel that they are being blatantly discriminated against on the basis of gender, and are thus not getting the equal protection of law guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Because of this, fathers are pursuing protection for their legal rights in multiple areas of family law.
When a man is married, he is considered by law to be the legal father of all children born within the marriage, unless paternity testing of himself or another man specifically proves that the husband is not the father. When a man is not married to the mother of a baby, establishing his paternity requires taking steps to do so.
An unmarried father may be in an ongoing relationship with the mother of the baby, quite possibly living together. In that case, he can go to the hospital with the mother at the time of the birth, support her through it, and have his name on the birth certificate from the beginning.
If a man is not in an ongoing relationship with the mother of the baby, establishing paternity will be more involved. Unless the mother agrees to affirm his parenthood, he will need to get a paternity test to prove it genetically. Once he does, he will be required to contribute financially to the support of the baby. He can also pursue visitation, joint custody, or even primary custody if he feels he would be a better parent for the baby. In some cases, good and competent fathers may face opposition from the mother of their children when they pursue parenting time. When that happens, they will need the services of an attorney who specializes in such cases.
Fathers will also need an attorney if the mother of the baby tries to put the baby up for adoption without the father's consent. This happens often, as adoption agencies seek to expedite adoptions by excluding the biological father. When that happens, the father will need help from an attorney who understands the legal rights of unmarried fathers in adoption cases and the applicable laws in the states involved.
While having their child adopted without their consent is rare for divorced fathers, child custody issues are common. Many divorced fathers across the country have unequivocally stated that their parenting time was treated as less valuable than that of their ex-wife's in family courts. Fathers who love their children want parenting time that allows them to be involved in their children's lives on a regular basis.
However, many are relegated to the status of visitor, in spite of being good parents. A capable attorney can help fathers in these situations pursue the amount of parenting time that they feel is best for their children. That may be joint custody, with the children spending comparable amounts of time with the father and the mother after the divorce. It may be primary custody, with the children spending the majority of their time with the father. It may even be sole custody, with the children living only with the father.
Child custody cases in divorce can be intense, and typically require substantial documentation. Fathers with excellent legal teams can expect that the best possible outcomes will be pursued, but the cases often take tremendous time and energy.
While child custody tends to be the most important matter for fathers, since it is most important to their relationship with the children, child support is a key issue, too. Whether in never married or divorced cases, child support payments are typically set when the parents of children are not living together. Those payments are intended to be used to pay the basic living expenses of the children, like food, clothes, and healthcare. Courts may also order child support payment amounts to include the costs of other things, like private school tuition.
Many fathers feel that the money they are paying is not going only to those expenses, but is being spent by the mother of the children on unrelated things. They want a clear accounting of expenditures. Other fathers feel that the overall amount of child support they have been ordered to pay is exorbitant, and doesn't reflect the real cost of the child's expenditures or the father's ability to pay. In all of these cases, it will be important for the father to secure the ongoing services of a skilled attorney, to address all of the applicable issues, relevant laws, and documentation.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.