In the first installment of this two-part series, we talked about the importance of fathers in their children’s lives, and took a look at the first two items on our ‘father’s rights’ list, namely child support and visitation. Moving forward, we are going to wrap this up with the last two issues – the establishing paternity, and the issue of establishing custody.
While fathers were so often kicked to the curb in favor of mothers, that mind set is thankfully changing. Now, fathers have a number of ways of asserting paternity, which ensures that they won’t be denied an opportunity to play a role in their children’s lives.
Paternity, by definition, is the legal determination of a child’s biological father. In other words, it proves who the child’s real father is. One of the easiest ways to establish paternity is to file an “acknowledgement” at the vital records department, which both parents will need to sign in order for it to be valid.
However, if your child’s mother refuses to acknowledge your paternity claim, a father can establish paternity by filing a paternity suit through the court. In this instance, the determination will be made by a Judge, who will demand that a paternity test be performed, either using a blood test or a DNA test. This is not affected in any way by the mother’s opinion, and her compliance in a court-ordered test is mandatory.
If a married couple gets divorced, a father may petition the court at that time for custody, either joint or sole, of his children. However, if the couple was never married, a father would need to establish paternity in order to petition the court for custody of the child.
Once paternity has been established, custody can be sought through several different means. Either the mother and father can work out an arrangement between the two of them and then submit the agreement to the court, or if the parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court can determine custody on their behalf.
In a case where the court makes the decision, they will take into account a number of factors, all of which help them determine what is in the best interests of the child. Factors like how long the child has lived in a stable home, and the loving bond that exists between the parents and the child will all be taken into consideration.
We hope this has been helpful to you. However, if you have additional questions about paternity, custody, visitation or any other aspect of family law, please contact us. Our experienced family law attorneys have many years of experience, and many satisfied clients, and we are standing by to help you.