If you’re a father, it may seem like everything and everyone’s against you at times – especially when it comes to fighting to maintain your relationship with your children. It should be apparent that fathers have a meaningful impact on their children’s growth and emotional development, but it’s not so obvious for everyone.
Primed by traditional outlooks on the family, many others view a child’s mother as the most important figure in their lives. Despite this, California laws give both parents an equal opportunity to parent their children when divorce occurs, or they’re born outside of marriage. The standard by which courts determine custody, visitation, and other important factors that affect a child’s life is to consider what’s in the best interest of the child.
This can place the needs of the child above those of the parent and often their rights. That said, there are some very important rights that fathers do have in California.
Who Is Considered a Father, Anyway?
Who is and isn’t a father seems like it should be a no-brainer, but as with almost any legal issue, there can be certain complexities when it comes to establishing a child’s paternity. In this case, establishing paternity is important for determining if a male individual will be legally considered a father and have paternal rights over a child.
Most often, the law will assume paternity under the following circumstances:
- A child is born into a marriage where the mother’s husband is considered to be the child’s father.
- A child is born and a male individual has lived with the child’s mother in a family-like manner, demonstrated commitment to the child, and is considered to be the child’s father whether or not the two are biologically related.
There are, of course, highly unusual situations in which establishing paternity could result in a child having three or more legal parents. This wasn’t the case until California’s Legislature amended the law in 2013. What spurred the change in law was a man discovering he had fathered a child with a woman who later married another woman.
When the child was born into the women’s marriage, both were considered to be the child’s legal parents, forcing the child’s biological father to fight for parental rights. Although the man was unsuccessful, fathers in similar situations can now fight for parental rights when they learn about children they conceive, even if two legal parents are already recognized.
Important Considerations for Custody & Visitation
When a father is legally determined to be a child’s parent, he gains several important legal responsibilities and rights.
Here are some things to consider:
- California laws don’t favor the mother by default.
- You are not automatically entitled to custody by virtue of being a father, but rather by what the judge determines to be in the best interest of your child.
- Some judges, as all people do, have biases. This might include a bias against fathers, even if deciding on that bias is wrong. If you believe a judge’s bias factored heavily into a ruling against your favor, this can be appealed.
- An unresolved custody dispute is one of the main reasons why any divorce would end up at trial.
- Visitation orders should be exercised if the father wants to keep the order or fight for more time and custody in the future.
- The role each parent had in a child’s life before divorce is relevant to their best interest, so being a good dad who spent time with his kids and caring for them matters.
- Co-parenting with your child’s other parent in a positive manner will benefit everyone.
Do You Need Help Fighting for Your Rights as a Father?
If you are a father and need to fight for your parental rights, Claery & Hammond, LLP can help. Our firm’s attorneys pool more than 50 years of combined experience to benefit people with all kinds of family law issues, including those concerning paternity and parental rights.
We take a personalized approach when advocating for each of our clients. That means you can expect our attorneys to take your needs, concerns, and the details of your situation into account as we fight for the best possible outcome that’s available to you. For more information about what Claery & Hammond, LLP can do for you, please schedule a consultation with us today.