Unmarried Fathers Have Rights Too!
Are you the father of a child who was born out of wedlock? If so, you’re part of a very large club here in the United States! The truth is that an estimated 40 percent of children born in this country have unmarried parents. That’s nearly a 30 percent increase from 30 years ago. Whether or not your name is on the child’s birth certificate, and whether or not you are living with the child’s mother, you do have rights and responsibilities toward that child. A local family law attorney can help you to understand your legal status in greater depth.
Who are the Unmarried Parents?
With the rate of marriage in decline, more and more couples are choosing to have children without the added complication of marriage. Trends indicate that perhaps a large portion of these pregnancies, however, may not be planned. Education level is related to this issue: nonmarital births are roughly 50 percent higher for women who lack a high school diploma than for their counterparts who hold a bachelor’s degree. Likewise, there is a correlation between race and nonmarital pregnancy, with Hispanic and Black women experiencing significantly higher rates of unwed pregnancy than white women.
Your Rights as the Biological Father
Naturally, biological fathers have the right to be involved with and spend time with their children and may legally have a voice in parenting decisions related to serious issues like education, medical concerns, religious affiliation, and so forth. Access to school and medical issues is a logical right as well, not to mention the right to discipline and impart your values to your children. If you are well positioned to care for your child, you may even make a claim for custody and child support. All of these parenting privileges are contingent on one key issue, however: proof of paternity. This can be recognized with an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity signed by both parents, through a Declaration of Paternity filed by the father, or with results from a paternity test, which may be ordered by the Court in some circumstances.
Fighting for Custody
If there is to be a battle for custody, it will require a fair amount of time and paperwork. After the child’s mother is served, you may be required to attend a parenting class or attempt mediation with the mother of the child, where you will cooperatively design a parenting plan outlining living arrangements, visitation, and other matters. Ultimately, there will be a hearing where a commissioner or judge hears evidence and testimony and makes a decision as to the best interests of the child. That could mean placement with you!
You Need an Advocate
Will you be fighting stereotypes that favor mothers if you pursue custody? In truth, it’s entirely possible. Dads make up only about one-fifth of custodial parents across the country, and most of those situations have been agreed to by both parents. Nonetheless, if you want to go to court to challenge the norms, there’s every possibility of winning your case. With the experienced Springfield family law attorneys at Courtney & Mills, LLC by your side, the opportunities are enormous. Contact us to discuss your situation today.