How to Protect Your Father’s Rights in Divorce and Child Custody Cases

Posted on in Child Custody and Visitation

St. Charles father’s rights attorneyToday’s fathers are often much more involved in raising their children than those from previous generations. Married couples or unmarried parents are more likely to share in family responsibilities, and in many cases, both partners work full-time jobs, make decisions together, and cooperate on chores and household tasks. Unlike the stereotypical dads of the past who left most child-related duties up to moms, modern fathers will often play a vital role in caring for their children.

Unfortunately, when married parents choose to get a divorce or unmarried parents decide to separate, many dads feel that their role as a parent is minimized, and they may struggle with concerns that they will not be able to continue to be closely involved in their children’s lives. After years of changing diapers, making sure kids are properly fed and clothed, attending children’s activities and doctor’s appointments, helping with homework, and myriad other parental responsibilities, fathers will want to keep up this level of involvement and be the great parent their children deserve.

If you are getting divorced, or if you are an unmarried parent who needs to address the custody of your children, you will want to be sure you take the right steps to protect your father’s rights. By working with a Kane County family law attorney, you can gain a better understanding of your rights as a parent, the decisions you will need to make, and the best ways to reach an outcome that will provide for your children’s best interests. Some of the issues that you may need to consider include:

Do I Need to Establish Paternity?

If you were married when your child was born, you will usually be considered to be the legal father, and this gives you rights and responsibilities toward the child. However, if you were not married at the time of your child’s birth, you may need to take additional steps to make sure you are named the child’s legal parent.

If you and the mother agree that you are your child’s father, you can both voluntarily acknowledge paternity, which is usually done by signing and filing a form. If there is any doubt about whether you are the father, you may need to file a paternity case in court, and DNA testing will most likely be used to confirm that you are the biological father. 

Once you are legally named as your child’s father, this will give you the right to share in the responsibility of raising them and to have reasonable amounts of parenting time. Establishing paternity will also ensure that both you and the mother will have the obligation to provide for your child financially, and it will give your child the right to access your family medical history and receive other benefits.

How Can We Create a Workable Parenting Agreement?

During a divorce, parents are required to create a parenting plan that outlines their rights and responsibilities toward their children, when children will be staying with each parent, and any other relevant child-related issues. Unmarried parents who separate will also want to create this type of agreement, which can help them avoid ongoing conflicts and disagreements about how they will handle parenting concerns.

A parenting plan will need to address two different aspects of child custody: the allocation of parental responsibilities, which is sometimes referred to as legal custody, and parenting time, which may also be known as physical custody or visitation. Parental responsibilities include the right to make decisions about important areas of your children’s lives, such as their education or healthcare. Parenting time refers to when your children will spend time in the care of each parent.

The decisions about how you will share child custody on an ongoing basis should be based on how you handled things while you were together with your children’s mother. You will typically both share responsibility for making decisions for your children, unless there were certain issues that one parent primarily handled. The schedules you create for parenting time should be based on the amount of time you each usually spend caring for your kids. In addition to addressing regular, daily schedules, you will also need to decide how you will divide days that fall outside of this schedule, such as holidays and vacations from school.

If you and your children’s mother have divided child-related tasks equally, you will likely want to create a parenting time schedule in which you will each have equal or near-equal amounts of time with your kids. However, you will also want to consider issues such as transportation of your kids and your family’s school and work schedules. The arrangements you make should be feasible, and they should not put too much stress on your children as they transition between your homes. When making these decisions, your children’s best interests should be the first priority, and both parents will probably need to make sacrifices to make sure you are meeting your kids’ ongoing needs.

Is Mediation an Option for Resolving Disagreements?

Divorcing or separated parents often do not see eye to eye. Even though you are no longer together with your children’s mother, you will still have an ongoing relationship as co-parents, and this means that you will both need to learn how to compromise when making decisions. In many cases, mediation is a good way to reach an agreement on the terms of your parenting plan, and it can help you build the foundation of a new relationship that will allow you to work together to raise your children.

During mediation, you and your ex-partner will work together with a neutral mediator to make decisions about how you will handle child-related issues. The process is completely confidential, and the terms of a parenting plan created during mediation must be agreed upon by both parties. This process can give you more control over the decisions you make, and it can help you avoid the time, expense, and stress of handling these matters in the courtroom. 

Is a Child Custody Evaluator Needed?

If you are unable to resolve your disputes through mediation, or if your divorce or child custody case involves bitter, contentious disagreements, an outside expert may be needed to evaluate the situation and offer recommendations. A judge may decide to appoint a child custody evaluator or a guardian ad litem, or either parent can request an evaluator to review their case.

If an evaluator is appointed, they will most likely speak to the parents and the children, as well as others who can offer helpful information, such as teachers, doctors, therapists, or other family members. They may also visit each parent’s home to make sure they will be able to provide a good environment for children. They will then make recommendations about how parental responsibilities and parenting time should be divided to protect the children’s best interests.

If a guardian ad litem or child custody evaluator is appointed in your case, you will want to be open and honest with them and provide any information requested. Explaining how you have been closely involved in your children’s lives in the past, demonstrating that you will be able to care for them while they are at your home, and being willing to work together with their mother will show an evaluator that you will be able to provide for their best interests going forward.

Working With a Family Law Attorney

One of the most important things you can do when addressing matters related to the custody of your children is to hire an experienced St. Charles child custody lawyer. Your attorney can help you understand your rights, explain how the laws apply in your situation, and help you take the right steps to reach an outcome that will allow you to keep being a great dad in the years to come.

 Goostree, Tricia D.

About the Author:

Tricia D. Goostree knew she wanted to be an attorney when she was 10 years old. After being accepted to the John Marshall Law School with a Dean’s Scholarship, Tricia added excellent writing skills to her love of working in the courtroom. Tricia is the founder and managing partner of the Goostree Law Group, P.C. in St. Charles, Illinois.

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