Non-Biological Father Parental Rights

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Non-Biological Father Parental Rights

A man who is not a child's biological or adoptive father may still have custody rights in certain circumstances. A common scenario is when a man believes the child is his own and acts like the child's father around others.  If the man is later learned not to be the biological father of the child, he may still retain custody rights after separation from the mother.   

When Can Non-Biological Father Child Have Parental Rights?

There is a strong presumption that a child's welfare is best served by being in the custody of a natural parent. As a result, non-parents have an uphill battle, and a number of cases end with natural parents winning custody. However, as a matter of public policy, a man who is the non-parental father of a child who has developed emotional parental feelings toward a child may be able to assert the rights as a biological or adoptive parent.

Can the Biological Parents Terminate the Non-Biological Father’s Parental Rights?

Custody decisions require two actions: 1. Determination of parentage and 2. Custody and visitation rights. The court does not give custody or visitation to individuals who are not considered parents. Therefore, men who consider themselves a father to a child must prove he is a father before the judge can award custody or visitation to the father figure. 

Therefore, it is vital that non-biological fathers receive notice of any custodial hearings. If the non-biological father doesn’t receive notice and the father doesn’t appear at the hearing, the judge could terminate the non-biological father’s rights.

Many states give fathers notice if the father signs up with a putative father registry. If the father complies with all the registry requirements, the father will receive notice of custodial hearings.

What If the Child Already Has a Biological Father?

Some states recognize the concept of “psychological parents.” A psychological parent is an individual who acts as a parent towards the child and it would be against the child’s best interest to end the parent/child relationship that has developed. Similarly, many states recognize that a child may have more than two parents. These legal concepts are often utilized if the biological father fails to be a parent other than the act of conception.

What Does the Court Take into Consideration in Granting Parental Rights?

A court's decision in granting child custody right is always based on the best interests of the child regardless of whether the parties seeking custody are the biological or non-biological parents. Factors the Court considers in making their decision include:

What Other Rights Do Non-Biological Parents Have Other than Child Custody?

If a non-biological father has acted like a father (like paying for child support), than he could petition the court for visitation rights.

Should I Seek an Attorney to Assist with a Child Custody Case?

Child custody is often a complex and emotional process. A family attorney will help you in addressing the important issues that the court will evaluate in order to determine custody.

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Last Modified: 05-18-2015 11:01 AM PDT

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