In child custody proceedings of the past, mothers were often awarded primary custody of their children while fathers were given limited visitation time. However, the times have changed.
Fathers now play a much more active role in their children’s lives, and they are not satisfied with only being with their children every other weekend. Child development experts have also confirmed that children fare best when they have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Unfortunately, though, mothers are still presumed to be the more capable parent in many child custody cases. That’s why fathers need an experienced family law attorney on their side.
Effective legal representation is even more important for unmarried fathers. Even if the father has played an important role in the child’s life, he has no legal rights to the child until paternity has been established.
That means until paternity has been established, the mother does not have to consult the father when making decisions that involve the child, including the decision to move away with the child, or even let the father see the child.
How to establish paternity
Paternity is presumed for married fathers. That means fathers who are married to the mother of the child at the time of the child’s birth automatically have the right to ask for custody time after a divorce or separation.
However, fathers who were unmarried to the mother at the time of the child’s birth and did not sign a recognition of parentage have to legally establish paternity before they can ask for custody rights.
As this FindLaw.com article explains, it’s possible to establish paternity in a number of ways. If the parents both agree who the father is, they can both sign a recognition of parentage at any time and submit it to the court. If the mother is unwilling to cooperate, then a paternity lawsuit can be filed and DNA test can be ordered to establish that the man is the biological father of the child.
Once paternity has been established, the father can move forward with exercising his parental rights with the help of his attorney.