Father’s Rights Law

In the past, father’s feared that fighting for custody of their children was a lost battle. The prevailing bias in the courts was to grant primary custody to mothers in custody disputes. Fortunately, there has been a gradual shift, supported by public policy, away from this bias against fathers. The perception of the father’s role as the distant breadwinner has evolved over the years to account for the crucial role of a father’s presence in the emotional development of a child. The active presence of a child’s father is just as important as the child’s mother in the shaping a child’s future as a well-adjusted, contributing member of society.

Father with Children

Children’ Interests / Best Interests of the Child Standard

Times have changed since the days when the tender years doctrine prevailed in child custody disputes. The tender years doctrine is an old common law doctrine, which favored mothers in custody disputes involving children aged four and below. The predominant thinking was that mothers were in the best position to provide the care that children need during those “tender” years. Today, the law has shifted. Rather than rely on gender-based stereotypes about which parent is best suited to take care of the child, the goal of most courts in the United States is to protect the child’s best interest. The ultimate deciding factor, considering all other factors prescribed by law, is what is in the best interest of the child.

Why the Father’s Role is Critical in a Child’s Life

Research studies have documented the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. A report by the Child and Family Research Partnership of the University of Texas lists five things to know about the importance of fathers. Top of that list is that involved fathers have a direct impact on their children’s cognitive development and educational achievement resulting in better performance in school, pro-social behavior, and better long-term life outcomes. This finding is echoed by many other reports on the importance of fathers in child development.

The studies also reveal that the benefits of a father’s active participation in a child’s life are experienced even when both parents are no longer a couple. What is important is the father’s direct and consistent involvement in the child’s life.

So it stands to reason that it benefits society as a whole to protect a father’s right to participate in the upbringing of their children.

Father’s Rights of a Noncustodial Parent in Decisions Regarding their Child

In a custody dispute, there are several issues that must be resolved including the legal and physical custody, visitation rights, child support, and parenting time.

  • Legal custody gives a parent the right to make crucial decisions about their child’s life. This can include decisions about their education, religion, and medical care.
  • Visitation rights and parenting time maintain a non-custodial parent’s right to visit, see, and spend time with their child.
  • Child support is a way to provide financial resources for the care and upkeep of a child. A custodial parent is entitled to support from the non-custodial parent to offset the financial cost of meeting the reasonable needs of their child. When fathers are the custodial parent, they have a right to child support in the same way that mothers do.

Each parent has equal parental rights in the US and must be equally considered in resolving any disputes regarding these issues.

Finding a Fathers Rights Attorney

Every father has a right to participate fully in their child’s life. Fathers often have to fight very hard to defend their rights to equal access to their children. Protecting the rights of fathers involves complex issues, which are best handled by an experienced fathers rights attorney.

Convincing the court that the father’s position regarding custody, support, and parental time requires indepth knowledge and understanding of the law, and powerful evidence to persuade the court. A fathers’ rights attorney can help fathers navigate the legal procedures to secure their right to be directly involved in their child’s life.

Fathers Need a Legal Strategy

A married couple considering divorce may have questions about moving out of the home, and how that will impact their rights. Fathers often fear that they may lose access to their children because of a separation or divorce. When a divorce or separation is pending, it is important to speak with a fathers’ rights attorney as early as possible to understand your rights as a father.

Often, the courts will adopt a negotiated parenting plan between the parties, as long as it is in the best interest of the child. A family law attorney who understands fathers’ rights can fathers prepare a strategy to maximize their position, and avoid mistakes that can jeopardize their parental rights.

A strategy will also help you understand and prepare for family court proceedings if any disputes arise. It is not unusual for the other party to adopt underhanded tactics like false accusations of child abuse or neglect by the father. A fathers’ rights attorney can also help you prepare for such possibilities in your case.

Most Common Mistakes Fathers Make in Divorce Proceedings

Often when a divorce is pending, men give up without a fight because they fear that they will be denied their parental rights. This is not true. Being aware of the most common mistakes fathers make can help them assert their rights and avoid conduct that may jeopardize their position in legal proceedings.

  1. Prematurely moving out of the family home. When a couple decides to separate or divorce, the father may leave the family home to avoid creating a hostile home environment. This can be a mistake if it is done too soon. When a father prematurely moves out of the family home without a written parenting agreement, this may be construed by the courts as abandonment and may affect a court’s orders as to child custody. It is important to maintain direct contact with your children throughout the separation and divorce process.

  2. Not seeking legal advice. The best person to advice you on your legal options when you are going through a divorce or separation is a family law attorney. Taking advice from friends and family may create more problems for you during divorce proceedings. An experienced family law attorney who understands the law is the best person to speak with when you are facing a divorce.

  3. Not keeping adequate financial records. Financial records are crucial to orders concerning issues like child support, spousal support, division of property that accompany a divorce. It is important to have well-kept financial records which can be given as evidence to support your position in resolving these divorce-related issues.

  4. Failing to respond to legal processes. Divorce proceedings are just like any other court process, they follow the strict rules of court process and procedure. This means that you must file the appropriate forms, respond timely to requests for information, and submit admissible evidence to support your case. The courts do not change the rules of court procedure and failure to adhere to them could cost you a case.

  5. Choosing a lawyer with no experience. Not every lawyer has the skill and experience to deal with divorce cases. To get the best outcome in your case, you will want a lawyer who has experience and a track-record of getting results for their clients.

Questions Frequently asked of our Father’s Rights Lawyers

Does A Child’s Mother Have The Advantage In Child Custody Battles?

It is no longer the case that the child’s mother has the advantage in child custody battles. Both parents have equal parental rights, and the courts are recognizing that it is in the best interest of a child to have the active presence and participation of both parents in their lives.

Although parental roles have changed and varied during the past few decades, divorcing couples in still often believe a child’s mother will have the upper hand in terms of custody. Dads sometimes think there’s no chance to argue for joint custody, which would allow them to share decision-making responsibilities and/or physical control of their children.

The Truth About Fathers’ Rights is that unless one parent is deemed unfit for child custody, however, states most often award parents joint physical and legal custody. Children and divorced parents often benefit from a joint custody arrangement over sole custody. Both parents can have active roles in their kids’ lives, and neither parent suffers the stress of single parenting.

Dividing the Marital Home, Stay or Leave?

The decision to say or leave the marital home involves the consideration of emotional and economic factors. For some fathers, there is a real threat that leaving the marital home may affect their parental rights. If you hold this fear, you should consult with a fathers’ rights lawyer who can advise you on the best action to take based on the laws in your state. They may also help you create a written parenting agreement with the mother of your child to take effect after you move out of the home, pending an order of the court. As long as the court finds a parenting agreement to be in the best interest of the child, the courts will uphold the agreement.

How Can Fathers Assert Their Custodial Rights?

The first thing to do, especially if the was never married to the mother, is to establish paternity of the child. This can be done in different ways. If the parents were married at the time the child was born, the law presumes the husband to be the father of the child. If the parents were never married, paternity can be established through a sworn affidavit of parentage signed by the mother and father, or a paternity action that involves genetic or DNA testing. Once paternity is established, a father can then assert their custodial rights. It is advisable to speak to an experienced fathers’ rights attorney who can assess the best option for you and guide you through the process.

What Are the Rights of Unmarried Fathers?

Unmarried fathers have the same rights as married fathers. They have equal right to legal and physical custody of their children, child support if they are the custodial parent, and visitation rights.

Possible Situations that Require Family Court Order Modification for Fathers!

The best interest of the child is always the central focus of family court orders. There are situations that may make require an order to modify an existing family court order. Parental alienation, physical or sexual abuse of the child, emotional or physical abuse of the child or the mother, the child’s wishes, or other changes in the circumstances of the mother that impact on the wellbeing of the child.

Can an Unwed Father Fight for Child Custody?

A father’s parental rights are not dependent on marriage to the child’s mother. As long as the biological father is established through DNA testing or other evidence, they have full parental rights and can fight to assert their rights.

Can a Divorced Father Renegotiate a Child Custody Agreement?

Generally, the courts do not like to modify existing child custody agreements because it is presumed that the agreement contains what is in the best interest of the child. However, evidence of a circumstantial change in the lives of the parties can be grounds for modification of custody. For example, if the mother wants to relocate to another state or country or if there are major concerns about the safety of the child.

What You Fathers Do to Help There Case During A Custody Battle?

When developing a child custody agreement, your kids’ best interest is the most important consideration. Speak up to make sure your opinions are heard. That way, your attorneys and the court can make the most informed decisions possible. In addition, the below tips may help any parent during a custody battle.

Respect your child’s mother.
The way you treat your child’s mother affects your child. It also affects your Pennsylvania custody case. No matter how you feel about your ex, be polite and respectful.

Pay your child support payments.
Paying child support on time shows that you care about your child’s well-being. Keep the canceled check as proof of payment. If you are struggling to make payments, pay what you are able to and request a modification to the child support order.

Build a day-to-day relationship with your child.
Do you know what your child does each day? Make it a habit to call your child and check-in. Offer to quiz your child on spelling words or to take her to the library to get books for her book report. Let her know that she can contact you if she needs anything. If possible, get involved in your child’s school or some of your child’s after-school activities.

Make visitation a priority.

Keep records of the time that you spend with your child. Sticking to a visitation schedule shows that your child is a priority.

Attend school functions and other important events.
To your child, school events are a big deal. In addition, the court sees attendance at events like school plays, basketball games, ballet recitals, first communion, and birthday parties as evidence of a meaningful relationship.

Make space for your child.
Does your child sleep on the couch in your one-bedroom apartment? You should show that your life has room for your child, even if it is just a small space. Plan to discuss housing plans with the judge.

Have a plan.
How will you change your life if your child lives with you? Have a written plan that includes living accommodations, education, time with friends, after-school activities, and financial matters.

The best thing you can do to help your child custody case is to develop and maintain a strong relationship with your child. Fortunately, this also the best thing you can do for your child.

What are examples of cases where the court upheld father’s rights?

In 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that terminated a father’s parental rights due a prison sentence that lasted from when his daughter was six months old until after her sixth birthday.

The case, DYFS v. J.G., arose when New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services (now the Division of Child Protection and Permanency), moved to terminate the father’s parental rights in order for her grandmother to be able to adopt her. The child and her half-brother had already been removed from their mother’s home due to the mother’s alcoholism.

The father, J.G., had been arrested and convicted of eluding a police officer. Prior to his conviction, he actively cared for his daughter. He testified that he did everyday activities such as feeding her, changing her diapers, and taking her to regular doctor’s appointments. While in prison, he took classes in anger management, behavior modification, reentry preparation and parenting. At trial, he agreed that the child should continue to live with her grandmother, but he refused to give up all of his rights to communicate and visit with the child.

The Supreme Court held that although there was a legitimate interest in the child being in a permanent placement, the evidence was not clear that terminating the father’s rights would not cause more harm than good. This is one of four factors that the Division of Child Protection and Permanency must consider in determining whether termination of parental rights is appropriate.

Criminal history is an important factor in custody cases. In fact, a new custody law in Pennsylvania requires custody litigants to complete an affidavit listing any crimes of whey they have been convicted.

Assert Your Fathers’ Rights with Nationally Recognized Father’s Rights Attorneys

Overwhelmed by the prospect of fighting for your rights as a father? Unsure about how to proceed with child custody issues? You can count on our skill and experience.

  • Our firm has been recognized as one of the top family law firms in the Philadelphia area.
  • Our Partner, Thomas Petrelli, Jr., has been recognized in Pennsylvania Super Lawyers since 2015. Our other Partner, Melinda Previtera, has also been named among Pennsylvania Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars since 2016.
  • Our proven advocacy has put us in the Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies since, for three years in a row (2019, 2020 & 2021).

We Proudly Help Fathers Fighting For Their Children

You may feel like the cards are stacked against you in your fight to defend your rights as a father. But there is hope when you have passionate fathers’ rights advocates in your corner. At Petrelli Law, we will provide the skilled legal representation you need to maintain a presence in your child’s life.

Contact our office today at 215-621-8691 to schedule a consultation with one of our top-rated fathers’ rights attorneys.