Many fathers desire to stay actively involved with their child after a divorce. While a lot of fathers may not have a good relationship with their child’s mother, they wish to assist in parenting their children. The unfortunate thing is that many fathers don’t know and/or understand their rights that may have been overlooked by a court.
While the courts are not supposed to favor mothers over fathers with regard to custody and child support, gender bias does still exist in many family courts around the country.
What are a Father’s Rights?
Your rights as a father, not only during a divorce where custody is being disputed but in the child’s upbringing, are pretty simple. They include:
- the ability to spend time with your child
- involvement in your child’s life
- equal participation in being a parent with regard to where your children live, go to school, and what church they attend
- equal access to your child’s school and medical records
- equal say when it comes to your child’s medical decisions
- the ability to parent and/or discipline your child without interference from their mother
What it boils down to is if a father wants equal rights to be a parent to his child, he must also equally share the responsibilities of raising his child, including financial support. All of the above rights are true for mothers as well.
One of the problems is that sometimes, mothers don’t have to worry about losing any of their rights like fathers do.
A Father’s Rights and Child Custody
While it’s stated in a very clear manner that the courts shouldn’t favor mothers over fathers, it still happens extremely frequently.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s website on its About Child Support page states, “Child support can be important to custodial parents (mostly women) and their children as a source of income received, as well as to noncustodial parents (mostly men) who make payments to help pay for the costs associated with raising their children.”
To further illustrate their point, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, approximately 13.7 million parents had custody over their children, and the other parent lived somewhere else. Of this number, only one in six were fathers, approximately 17.8 percent.
Additionally, of the 17.8 percent of fathers, 18 percent of them were living below the poverty level. This is a higher percentage of custodial mothers, who are less likely to be employed and most likely to be receiving some form of public assistance.
It’s important to note that if your ex-spouse is the custodial parent and she is interfering with your visitation to punish you in some way, this may justify a change in custody. This differs from state to state, so it’s important to consult with a family law attorney in your state.
Both you and your ex-spouse have the right to ask for custody and visitation with your child. If sole custody is awarded, one of you will receive physical and legal custody of your child. In a shared custody arrangement, both you and your ex-spouse will share in the decision-making responsibilities for the child and generally split parenting time in a more equal manner. Many states believe that shared custody is in the best interest of your child.
Additionally, most child custody cases aren’t decided by the courts at all. Rather, they are decided in other ways. For example:
- In 51 percent of all child custody cases, both parents agreed on their own that the mother be the custodial parent.
- 29 percent of all child custody cases were decided without involvement by a third party.
- 11 percent of custody cases were decided during the mediation process.
- In 5 percent of all custody cases, the issues were resolved after a custody evaluation.
- Only 4 percent of all custody cases went to trial.
Child Support and a Father’s Rights
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half of the fathers who pay child support do not have any visitation rights with their child. Only 28.8 percent of custodial fathers receive child support either by an agreement or ordered by the court. In sharp contrast, 53.4 percent of custodial mothers receive child support.
Family Planning and a Father’s Rights
If a parent is thinking about putting their child up for adoption, the father of the child has the right to object and petition the court for custody. However, if a father is against his child being aborted, he is powerless to stop it.
If as a father you oppose your mate from carrying the baby to term, you may still be responsible to pay child support after your child is born.
Parental Leave and Father’s Rights
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows a father to take twelve weeks of unpaid leave for certain workers after their child is born or adopted. There are some states that require paid paternal leave.
5 Things You Should Consider as a Father Who Wants Equal Parenting Time After the Divorce
- You should document all the times you were not allowed visitation with your child. You should bring this documentation to court to show interference by the mother of your child.
- Hire an experienced and qualified family law attorney to help you file documents with the court to get equal parenting time with your child.
- Ignore all the negative stories you hear from other people to dissuade you from gaining equal custody.
- Fix your finances. The financial cost of a long custody battle shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to fighting for your children. Your ability to provide for your child will come up in court.
- Do not compromise before mediation and/or court. Once you and your ex-spouse have reached an agreement, there’s no way to go back, so remain determined until you and your ex-spouse can reach a compromise.
There are many fathers who don’t understand their legal rights in a divorce that involves children. In most cases, a father will give up on custody because he is afraid of losing in family court due to gender bias.
If seeing your child is very important to you, the prospect of a custody fight shouldn’t deter you from your goal. You have as much right to raise your child as their mother, and this doesn’t change after your divorce.