Even in our modern world, a world that is supposed to have equal rights, there can still be confusion about a father’s rights in a divorce. People often assume that fathers, or men in general, often experience discrimination.
In some ways, this is a fair assumption. Reports show that men often have trouble receiving fair treatment in spousal support decisions. Biases still exist, and these prejudices can cause men to receive unfair treatment.
However, there is hope in our system. As a legal father, you will always have certain rights. You can lose these rights only if the state declares you an “unfit parent,” posing a direct danger to your children. If you care enough about your children to read this article, this designation probably doesn’t apply to you.
Here is a broad overview of the legal rights all fathers possess.
The Right to Custody and Visitation
Generally, states do not want to separate kids from their parents. As a father, you have the right to visitation and, if possible, partial custody.
It’s important to remember that visitation and custody are different. Visitation is scheduled time to see your kids. It may be a regular event, like taking the kids out every Saturday night. It can also be electronic communication, such as time set aside for phone or video chats.
Custody is time when you directly possess the kids. They stay with you and are in your care. You feed them, keep them clothed, and so on. Even if you are only a “weekend parent,” if the kids stay with you during that time, you have custody of them.
You can also have “legal custody” over your kids. This is not time that they are in your home. Rather, it is the authority to make certain decisions. For instance, you can have legal custody over educational or healthcare matters.
The Right to Pay Child Support
Child support doesn’t have to be a burden, despite its reputation. When ordered correctly, child support should be comparable to the amount of money you paid for the kids while you were married.
Paying child support has its advantages. It keeps you involved in the kids’ lives, and it allows you to contribute to their welfare.
Remember, child support is not one adult giving money to another. It is money that you spend directly on your children. If someone is using child support money on themselves, they can suffer legal consequences.
The Right to Grant Benefits to Your Child
Fathers may include their children in their benefit plans such as healthcare. Furthermore, many military benefits are available to the children of veterans.
You should always plan for your estate. If you, however, happen to pass without a will, much of your assets automatically goes to your children.
The Importance of Paternity
Biology does not automatically make you the legal father of your child. For instance, if a married woman has another man’s baby, her husband can sign the birth certificate, legally becoming the child’s dad.
Even if you have a great relationship with your child’s other parent, you must establish paternity to retain your rights. You cannot predict the future or what will happen in that relationship. If the other parent decides to block you, and you are not legally protected, you could lose access to your kids.
In New York, you must sign a petition of paternity along with the child’s other parent. Both signatures must be present. If you encounter opposition, you need to plead to the court for your paternity. This may involve DNA testing or other evidence of your fatherhood.
Keep in mind that the court operates in the best interests of children. It can block your paternity if it believes your involvement will not benefit the child. Work with your lawyer to prepare an argument that goes beyond your biological fatherhood. You need to prove that your inclusion in the child’s life will be good for them.
If your fathers’ rights are being blocked, or if you need help with paternity, call our firm for a free consultation. Our number is (516) 514-3868. You can also schedule time with us online.