In family law, the rights of fathers usually involve a father’s right to visitation and custody of his children. Other issues pertaining to father’s rights include:
Though state laws vary, fathers typically reserve their right to custody and visitation across the board. Issues such as a paternity test, or a child’s surname on the birth certificate tend to be more state-specific.
Father’s Visitation Rights
A father’s right to visitation simply means that the biological father has the right to spend time with the child during an allotted time. In the case of divorce, a divorce decree lays out the rights and responsibilities of each party at the termination of the marriage. It includes many important aspects of a divorce proceeding, including child custody, visitation rights, and child support. Herein lies a father’s rights, which are further expanded:
- The right to visit the children at a designated time
- The right to schedule activities with the children
- The right to be free of the mother’s control during visitation
- The right to spend the entire allotted time with the children, with no infringement
- The right to an injunction to stop the mother from taking the children out of state
- The right to modify the divorce decree
Modifying the divorce decree usually occurs when the visitation schedule needs to be changed, or if a party has taken issue with the other due to a dispute over the agreement.
Modifying Visitation Rights
Visitation rights are commonly modified due to changing circumstances. If a party is relocating, or a work schedule has changed a modification may be necessary. If the child’s needs have changed, or a third party (e.g., a grandparent) is asking for visitation rights, then the parents can submit the changes to the court before acting on the new arrangement. If someone acts before court approval, a violation of the visitation order may occur, followed by serious consequences.
How do Father’s Rights Laws Compare with Mother’s Rights Laws?
Some states still use guidelines pertaining to the traditional gender-specific roles of a mother and father, and what is expected of each (e.g., child-rearing vs. breadwinner).
For fathers, this usually means that the mother is the presumed caretaker, and therefore, is commonly awarded custody. Other states have progressed to a gender-neutral approach to family law, which recognizes non-traditional family structure.
What if I Want to Assert My Rights as a Father?
Father’s visitation rights are not automatically granted. If you are looking to assert your visitation rights, be prepared to undergo a thorough analysis by the court. Before approaching the judge, it is a good idea to consult an attorney. The court may consider your relationship with your child, your background, and your mental health. Any history of criminal activity, domestic violence, or abuse may also impact the court’s decision.
The Non-Rights of Fathers
Father’s rights also come with “non-rights.” Fathers do not have the right to withhold child support payments, even if the mother violates his visitation rights. He also does not have the right to verbally attack the mother as a ploy to enforce his visitation rights. If an issue has arisen regarding your visitation rights, seek counsel immediately.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
State laws vary when it comes to a father’s visitation rights. Since cases involving family law can be stressful, emotional, and time-consuming, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney. An experienced family law lawyer can ensure your rights to visitation are protected, and can assist with any other issues that may evolve in your case.