What Are a Father’s Rights?
The married parents of children have equal rights when it comes to raising their children. Issues only arise when parents are unwed, separate, or get divorced. Unwed fathers have not always had explicit parental rights.
Today, most states have protections for fathers, guaranteeing them parental rights. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld father’s rights and struck down state laws that give preference to mothers in custody cases. Although laws vary by state, in general, fathers have rights to:
- Parenting time with their children
- Financially support their children
- Make decisions about their child’s care
- Consent to or contest an adoption
- Seek joint or sole custody
- Enjoy visitations with children when the mother has sole custody
To deny a father these rights, there must be extenuating circumstances. These may include a history of abuse or domestic violence, substance abuse, or criminal convictions.
What is a Father’s Rights Lawyer?
In spite of laws that state mothers and fathers have equal legal rights to the care of their children, men often face discrimination in the family courts. Mothers are often still given preference in custody. Fathers have to fight for custody, for visitation, and even to prove paternity.
A father’s rights lawyer specializes in working with men on these issues. Father’s rights lawyers advocate for their clients in negotiations with mothers and other guardians, in family court and custody hearings, and in hearings for visitation rights.
When Do I Need a Father’s Rights Lawyer?
Any time you are facing disputed custody, visitation, or paternity, it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer with experience and expertise in father’s rights. You may be able to amicably arrange for joint custody or visitation schedules with the mother, but these agreements often get complicated or contentious.
If you are in a situation in which agreement is impossible, and you must go to a hearing with a family court judge, there is a chance the court will unfairly favor the mother. A lawyer can help uphold your rights. Examples of specific situations in which you need a father’s rights lawyer at your side include:
- The mother of your child denies your paternity.
- The mother refuses to share custody or give you visitation rights.
- The mother is violating a court order and denying you the right to see your children.
- You believe the mother is unfit and want to seek sole custody.
- You’re worried that the mother or another guardian is harming your child.
- You want to modify a court order for custody or a visitation schedule.
- The mother is trying to put your child up for adoption without your consent.
What Can a Father’s Rights Lawyer Do for Me?
Hiring a father’s rights lawyer may be one of the best things you do for the relationship you have with your child. As a father, you have rights, but the courts don’t always see it that way. If you have any concerns at all that your rights are being violated, work with a lawyer. They can help you in several ways:
- Explain your rights
Many fathers don’t understand their rights when it comes to their children. A lawyer with expertise in family courts and law can explain your rights. Don’t assume that your children must go with their mother. Both parents have rights.
- Establish paternity
If the child’s mother fights you on paternity, you can’t even begin to seek parental rights. A lawyer can explain how to legally establish paternity in your state and get the correct paperwork filed with the court so you are recognized legally.
- Prove fitness
The mother may try to prove you are unfit as a parent as a way of establishing or maintaining sole custody. An experienced lawyer knows what you need to prove fitness to the family court.
- Investigate the mother
If you believe the mother is unfit or is harming the child, a lawyer will collect evidence. To take custody away from a parent, you have a substantial burden of proof. A lawyer can help you make your case successfully to keep your child safe.
- Get fair visitation
If the court decides in favor of the mother, you still have a right to visit your child. Your lawyer can negotiate with the mother or work with the court to get you a fair and reasonable schedule with your child.
How to Find a Father’s Rights Lawyer
A quick search online will show you that many firms and lawyers advertise specializing in father’s rights. Before you choose the first one you come across, take time to interview a few lawyers and ask important questions:
- How long have you been working with fathers?
- How many fathers have you helped with custody or visitation?
- What were the outcomes of these cases?
- Can you provide references from past clients?
- What are the issues you see with my case?
- Do you think my goals are reasonable?
- How long will it take to get custody or visitation?
- Do you think I will have to go to court?
- What are your fees?
This is not a decision to be made lightly. The experience and abilities of the lawyer will have a significant impact on your future with your child. Choose the lawyer or firm you feel confident can help you. Also, consider talking to other fathers who have been in this situation. They may have a lawyer they trust and can refer.
Working with Your Lawyer for the Best Outcome
Custody issues can be contentious and emotional. Your lawyer needs facts and information to represent you. Avoid elaborating or exaggerating to make yourself look better, or the mother look worse. It is up to your lawyer to present the facts in a way that makes your case strong but fair.
Your lawyer also needs to know what your goals are. Be clear about what you want to achieve so they can work toward those goals or let you know if they are impossible. It is always in a child’s best interests for the parents to agree and be amicable. Insist that your lawyer try to negotiate before going to court.
Father’s rights are ensured by law, but custody battles can get heated. Emotion may lead to the mother getting preference. The best way to get a good outcome for your child is to allow a lawyer to represent you as a neutral third party.