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12
November

Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Father

By Jeffrey M. Salassa

father and daughter spending time together after meeting with Clinton Township child custody attorneys

Divorce used to be an unmentionable topic of discussion; however, it has become increasingly commonplace. So much so that a staggering 46,523 divorces are filed each week in the United States. The most common causes for divorce are related to issues involving communication (or lack thereof), adultery, financial issues, spousal abuse, or simply loss of interest. In fact, research indicates that the majority of first marriages only last an average of eight years. Chances are, you or someone you know may need a divorce lawyer at some point.

As such, it’s important for parents, regardless of their marital status, to know and understand their rights. This is especially important for fathers, who often feel the law is stacked against them in terms of child custody and support. Historically speaking, there were several laws that supported that view. However, times have changed, and the legal system has followed suit. Therefore, it is essential for fathers to retain an experienced family law attorney, child support attorney, or child custody attorney in order to protect their rights.

Between child custody, support and visitation, understanding your legal rights as a father is integral to playing an active role in your child’s life. However, there are several myths surrounding fathers’ rights. Family dynamics in America have drastically changed over the course of the last two decades. The once commonly held belief that the mother is the “better” parent and should automatically receive custody is not so common anymore. This was known in the legal system as the “tender years doctrine.” As attitudes regarding gender roles become more progressive, fathers are now recognized as playing a vital role in raising children.

Recently, the outdated tender years doctrine has been replaced, as courts now use gender-neutral standards regarding the child’s best interest. The court evaluates all relevant factors pertaining to the child’s welfare and overall wellbeing. Sometimes the ruling is in favor of the mother, and sometimes it is in favor of the father. It is no longer a given that the mother will have custody. Also, it is important to note that significance of establishing paternity in couples who are not legally married. A court order cannot be ruled until paternity is established.

A child custody attorney will assist you in creating a parenting plan, or visitation schedule. Aside from when and where you or the mother will see the child, consider who has access to school and medical records, as well as who will be able to attend or participate in school or extracurricular activities. If the mother is repeatedly not honoring the custody order, document all incidences, and see your child custody lawyer, who can help to get the order enforced by the courts. Repeated violations of a parenting plan may lead to loss of custody in many states.

It is important to work closely with your child support attorney in order to enact reasonable child support payment. As times have changed, many women are earning more than their male counterparts, and therefore are required to make child support payments.

Today, fathers have more rights in regards to child custody than in years past. A qualified family law or child support attorney will ensure those rights are protected, and that your child’s needs are met.

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