Family Law Concerns for Dads

Fathers and child custody, paternity, and step-parent adoption

Addressing Fathers' Rights, Paternity, and Other Legal Issues

As a dad, you may feel that you're at a disadvantage in the legal system. No matter how involved you've been in your kids' lives, their mom is likely to be seen as the more nurturing parent and the one who provides the majority of their care. Of course, the fact that there are a lot of deadbeat dads out there doesn't help, and even if you're dedicated to making sure that term could never be used to describe you, you can still be unfairly painted with the same brush. This means you'll need to make an extra effort to educate yourself about your rights and show that you're always focused on what's best for your kids.

Whether you're going through a divorce, are already separated from your children's mother, or need to settle other issues in family court, you'll want to work with an experienced family law attorney. Some matters you may need to address include:

  • Fathers' rights - Dads and moms should be treated equally in the eyes of the law, and decisions about child custody, visitation, child support, and child relocation should be based on what is in your children's best interests rather than the preferences of either parent. You have the right to be as involved in your kids' lives as you were when you were together with their mom, and this includes the right to make decisions about how they are raised, to have reasonable amounts of quality time with them, and to access records about their education and medical care.
  • Paternity - If you weren't married when your child was born, you may not be listed on their birth certificate, and you may not be considered their legal parent, even if you've been in a relationship with their mom and have provided daily care and support for them. Establishing legal paternity will help secure your parental rights in cases involving divorce or separation. You may also need to address paternity issues if you discover that you're not the biological father of a child you thought was yours.
  • Step-parent adoption - If you've gotten remarried after your divorce, you might want to strengthen the bonds between members of your new family by formally adopting your spouse's child. You'll need to understand the legal procedures that must be followed when adopting a step-child and the potential roadblocks that may arise. You should also be sure to understand how to protect your parental rights if your ex's new spouse wishes to adopt your child.
  • Same-sex fathers - While same-sex marriage is now legal throughout the United States, and LGBTQ couples have the same rights afforded to opposite-sex couples, same-sex dads may face a variety of challenges during a divorce or separation. Child custody disputes in these cases can become very complicated, and they may be affected by issues such as when a child was adopted and who is considered a legal parent. Same-sex couples may also need to address complex matters related to property and finances, especially if they were together for a significant amount of time before getting legally married.
  • Domestic violence and abuse - Even though men are more often seen as the perpetrators of abuse, they can also be victims, or they may discover that a partner or family member has acted abusively against their child. If you or your child have experienced abuse, you'll want to take steps to protect your safety, including obtaining a restraining order or order of protection. You'll also probably want to begin the process of legally ending your marriage while ensuring that child custody arrangements will protect your child's safety and well-being.
  • Orders of protection/restraining orders - If you've been accused of committing domestic violence or abuse, your ex may have obtained an order of protection against you. Unfortunately, restraining orders may be based on false accusations, and vindictive exes sometimes use them to attempt to gain an advantage during divorce or child custody proceedings. As hard as it can be to be prohibited from seeing or talking to your kids, you'll want to be sure to follow all of the requirements of an order while it is in effect, since violating a court order could result in criminal charges. You should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to determine your best options for defending against an order of protection and protecting your rights to parenting time with your kids.
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