Before getting into what a fathers’ rights lawyer does, here’s a little background on why they exist in the first place.
It is common knowledge that family law and family courts, in general, are generally biased against men. There’s no debate about that.
The assumption has always been that kids are better off with mom. A father’s role is relegated to paying child support and spending time with the kids every other weekend. If you wanted a different arrangement, you would have to have a darn good reason for it.
If you’re currently in the middle of a heated custody dispute or want the right to play an active role in your children’s upbringing, then you need to get the best fathers’ rights lawyer to represent your interests.
So, what exactly can they do for you? This article explores in depth the role of a fathers’ rights attorney.
What Does a Fathers’ Rights Attorney Do?
Up until recently, joint and shared custody arrangements were generally frowned upon by the courts. It was not considered to be in the child’s best interests since it denied them the right to have a stable home environment, which is critical to their growth and upbringing.
Whether or not this has changed ultimately depends on which state you live in. In several southern states, for instance, traditional gender roles are deeply entrenched and interwoven into the very fabric of the existing societal values.
So much so, that in certain rural counties in these states, no judge would give custody of the children to the father. You would have to prove that the mom was failing miserably in their parental role.
So, what can a family lawyer specializing in fathers’ parental rights do for you?
1. Child Visitation Rights for Fathers
As a biological father, you have the right to pursue child custody or visitation rights. This is true regardless of whether you and the child’s mother were married or not.
Nonetheless, just like any other child custody decision, a court has to rule in the best interests of the child. And, in most cases, unless proven otherwise, it is always in a child’s best interest to have both parents playing an active role in their lives. So, more often than not, child visitation rights for fathers will be granted by the judge.
For unwed dads, the first step to cementing their rights is establishing paternity.
The process usually involves both parents acknowledging paternity by signing the birth certificate either at the time the child is born or afterward.
The point is – there should be a birth certificate that indicates that you’re the father.
In instances where paternity is in doubt, or there was a failure on your part to sign the birth certificate, a DNA paternity test will have to be done before a court order is issued, stating that you are indeed the child’s father.
Negotiating a Parenting Agreement
The legal proceedings always begin with the parents negotiating an agreement, the details of which include:
- Specifying which parent will have primary custody of the child
- Who will make the decisions relating to the child’s welfare like where they go to school, health care matters, religion, etc.
- Procedures for changing any aspects of the agreement in force
For unwed parents, visitation rights for the fathers usually depend on factors like their existing relationship (or lack thereof) with the child, any history of drug or alcohol use, child abuse, and several other considerations that all contribute to the welfare and safety of the child.
If you need help establishing your parental rights and are not quite sure how to jumpstart the process, a simple online search for the best fathers rights attorney near me will connect you with a lawyer in your area.
If you and the mother of your child cannot agree on a workable parenting agreement, you may request the court to grant you access through a contested hearing.
2. Termination of Parental Rights
Every parent has the right to be involved in their child’s care, safety, welfare, education, and custody. Nevertheless, their parental rights – whether maternal or paternal – can be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily.
The voluntary termination of your parental rights is a lengthy and complex legal process that varies from state to state. A father’s rights lawyer can help you navigate the process to help you get a favorable ruling. Keep in mind; a positive outcome isn’t always guaranteed.
The involuntary termination of your parental rights occurs when the mother of your child seeks to severe your rights. It may also happen when a state agency initiates legal proceedings to terminate the rights of both parents.
Factors that contribute to the involuntary termination of parental rights include child abuse, incarceration of the parent, failure to support the child, and abandonment.
If you’re not sure how to fight termination of parental rights, you’ll need to retain a competent fathers’ rights lawyer to help you prove that you’re fit to retain your rights.
3. Mothers’ Rights vs. Fathers’ Rights in Adoption Cases
In all states, the law grants both the mother and father the right to consent to the adoption of their child. For a father to retain his rights, he first has to establish paternity through a DNA test or the existence of a signed birth certificate.
You can have your parental rights terminated if there is evidence to show that you haven’t been paying child support, have abandoned your child, have some sort of mental incompetence, have a history of child, alcohol, or drug abuse, or any other indicator of parental unfitness.
A fathers’ rights attorney understands the intricacies of your state’s adoption laws to help you through the process or challenge it altogether if you deem it wrongful.
You Have the Right to Be in Your Child’s Life
All in all, exercising your parental rights or even fighting to retain them is a complex and lengthy affair.
You’ll need to get in touch with the best fathers’ rights lawyer to help you gather evidence, prepare the court paperwork, and draft the legal agreements necessary to protect your rights. It will help you ensure that you establish and maintain a relationship with your children as they’re growing up.
Remember, the formative years are the most important in your children’s development. So, you need to be present every step of the way. If you have to wage a legal war to do it, then, by all means, do it. Your kids are worth it.