Whether you are going through a divorce or are an unmarried father, your parental rights are still important and should be respected. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge for fathers to receive the appropriate recognition in their child’s life and may find themselves fighting to protect their rights. As Des Moines family law attorneys, we understand the difficulties you may be facing, and we can help you fight for your rights. Here are some of the things you can do to defend your rights as the father of your child.
What Are My Rights as a Father?
Before you can defend your rights, it is important to understand just what they are. Knowing every right you are entitled to can help you form a comprehensive plan to defend your parental rights with our fathers’ rights lawyer.
As a father, you have the right to:
- Maintain an ongoing relationship with your children. This means that you have the right to communicate with your children, have regular parenting time, and remain involved in their life.
- Claim paternity. If you were married to the child’s mother at the time of birth, you should be automatically considered the father. If you were not married, however, you may need to establish paternity. Establishing paternity allows you to also file a request for visitation and will make you responsible for paying child support,
- Prevent a third-party adoption. If you are unmarried and believe the child is yours, you may be allowed to block a third-party adoption, including step-parent adoption.
- See your children regularly. Even if you don’t have shared custody, you still have the right to see your children through regular visitation. A consistent visitation schedule can make it easier for everyone involved.
- Make collaborative decisions. As a parent, there are many decisions that must be made for your child’s wellbeing. You have the right to collaborate with your child’s mother to make decisions regarding education, religion, and medical care.
- Co-parent your child. In many states, the courts recognize that equal involvement of both parents is often in the best interest of the child, especially if the parents were involved before the divorce or separation.
As a father, you also have a responsibility to pay child support for your children. If you wish to exercise your parental rights, you will also need to accept the responsibilities that come with those rights.
How Can I Protect My Rights as a Father?
It’s no secret that dads often get the short end of the stick when it comes to child custody issues. As painful as this can be, that doesn’t mean that you should lose hope. The court cannot legally discriminate against fathers, as long as they are equally capable of providing for their children’s physical, emotional, and social needs and have maintained or have attempted to maintain an ongoing relationship with their children.
Fathers who can demonstrate that they are an active part of their child’s life have a better chance at protecting their parental rights than a father who has chosen to not be a part of their child’s life. The court will make their decisions based on what is best for your child, so it’s important to demonstrate that shared custody, co-parenting, or other visitation goals are in their best interest.
Here are some tips to help you protect your parental rights:
- Establish paternity as early as possible. If you do not establish paternity, you may forfeit your parental rights. Failing to establish paternity early may be seen as a lack of commitment to your child. Seek legal confirmation of your paternity as soon after the birth as possible.
- Try to be an active part of your child’s life. Go to their games and recitals, attend doctor’s appointments, and meet with their coaches and teachers. If other adults are familiar with your involvement with your child, they may be able to support your case.
- Provide financial support, even if you have not been ordered to. Putting your money where your mouth is can help your case significantly when it comes to demonstrating your commitment to your child.
- Never skip visitations, unless absolutely necessary. Things can come up, which may make it impossible to make your visitation time. Contact the child’s mother as early as possible, and attempt to reschedule the visitation. Skipping your visits, even with good reason, can cause the court to think you aren’t committed to your child.
- Spend time with your child. Whether it’s helping with homework, playing in the yard, or even doing chores together, it is important to your child and to the court that you form a bond. There are many other aspects of parenting, such as financial support, making decisions, and caring for your child, but the court also wants to ensure that your relationship with the child is strong and it would be harmful to the child to break that bond.
- If you are under any restrictions due to domestic violence, drug, or other charges, it is important to be patient and still participate in your child’s life how you can. Supervised visitations can be uncomfortable, but you may earn more parental rights with time and consistent attention to your relationship with your child.
- If you learn that the mother of your child has filed for a third-party adoption, your rights may be terminated if you do not file a challenge. Often, if you file an objection to an adoption, you will also indicate that you intend to file for child custody immediately. Generally, your custody petition must be filed within a short time period after the objection.
- Get help from a qualified child custody attorney who understands fathers’ rights. They can help you navigate the twists and turns of the family law system and advocate for your rights. Your lawyer is on your side and has the knowledge and experience to help you through every obstacle.
At The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, we are deeply familiar with the challenges that face many fathers who are seeking to gain custody of their children and protect their rights as a parent. Our experienced Des Moines child custody attorneys are ready to fight on your side.
Contact our team today by calling (515) 200-7571.