Even though the law is gender-neutral when it comes to child custody determinations, fathers often find themselves facing an uphill battle when trying to securing meaningful time with their children. As a result, fathers tend to be put in a position where they have to be proactive in securing and protecting their father’s rights. But how do you go about doing that?
It starts with establishing paternity
If your child was born out of wedlock, then before you can secure visitation or custody, you’ll need to establish paternity. This can be accomplished by signing a paternity affidavit, which will conclusively establish paternity, or taking a DNA test, which could lead to a paternity decree naming you as the child’s father.
If your child was born during the course of your marriage, then there’s a presumption that you’re the child’s biological father. That presumption can be overcome if another man presents DNA evidence that he is the father, but you might have legal strategies to try to block that from happening if you want. So, if you have children from your marriage, then you should be prepared to move to the next step.
Securing visitation or custody
Once paternity has been established, you can seek visitation or custody. But you’re not going to be given whatever you ask for right off the bat. Instead, you’re going to have to demonstrate why your proposed contact with the child is in the child’s best interests.
There are several ways to address your child’s best interests. This includes doing each of the following:
- Showing any existing bond that you have with your child.
- Demonstrating that you have financial stability.
- Illustrating how your physical and mental health allows you to adequately care for your child.
- Presenting your child’s wishes for contact with you, if your child is old enough to voice their opinion.
- Showing how you intend to maintain the relationship and communication between your child and their other parent.
- Detailing any issues with your child’s other parent that may warrant a change in physical custody.
If you’ve just established paternity, then it might be hard to show some of these aspects, which is why courts usually grant visitation if warranted, thereby giving you the opportunity to build your relationship and bond with your child. After that occurs, you might be in a stronger position to request increased visitation or physical custody.
What about legal custody?
Legal custody gives you the ability to make important decisions for your child, including those related to their medical care and education. Therefore, you should seek joint legal custody from the get-go. While this means that you have an equal ability to make important decisions for your child, practically speaking you and your child’s other parent will have to try to coordinate with each other to come to a consensus before those decisions are made.
Once you’ve established paternity, you should be able to secure some sort of legal custody so long as there are no concerns with your decision-making capabilities, and you can demonstrate that you intend to act in your child’s best interests.
Act now to protect your father’s rights
You have the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with your child. But you’re only going to be successful in doing so if you act now to protect your rights. So, if you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to start down this path, then now is the time to educate yourself on the law and what you can do to position yourself for success.