What are the Rights of the Father?

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Historically, when spouses decided to legally separate or divorce, the mother was always awarded custody of the children. Today, the laws are very different due to society's increasing awareness and promotion of fathers' rights and the ability of either sex to parent. The term "fathers' rights" refers to the parental rights and responsibilities all fathers have when it comes to their children. In New York, family law courts carefully weigh the best interests of the child when awarding custody, which has led to many fathers receiving custody of their children.

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Fathers' Rights and Child Custody

Spouses who are going through a divorce, or parents who are not married, may not be able to reach a mutual child custody decision on their own. In these cases, the family courts must make a child custody decision for them. The court's primary objective in these instances is the child's best interest.

If the court believes that the child's best interests and sense of security will be better protected by living with their father, the court will award custody to him. The court is not allowed to automatically assume that the mother is a more fit parent without considering what it will mean for the child.

When the court makes a child custody decision, the court will consider several factors, which may include:

  • The child's age
  • The child's health
  • The child's preference (if above a certain age)
  • Each parent's health and lifestyle
  • The emotional bond between the child and each parent
  • The parent's ability to provide for the child's needs
  • The child's current way of life

In many cases, the parent who has physical custody of the child during court proceedings, or who is their primary caretaker, may have the advantage in a custody case in the interest of not disrupting the child’s life.

Establishing Paternity

It is important to note that in the state of New York, if the parents of a child were never married, or failed to sign an “Acknowledgement of Paternity,” the father cannot be granted custody or visitation rights without first legally establishing paternity. This can be accomplished in one of two ways. First, the father may make a petition for a court order, usually in a family law court. Alternatively, both parents may decide to acknowledge paternity in writing and record this with the child’s birth certificate. You can receive help filing your paternity application from your local Social Services Department.

Family Law Attorneys Serving Long Island

Fathers who are involved in a legal separation, divorce, or parental rights case should consult with an experienced family law attorney. At Wisselman & Associates, we can inform a father of his legal options, represent him in court, and protect his rights to be with his child.

We will also assist with any paternity issues and post-divorce child support modifications, and will explain the legal complexities surrounding child custody and child support.

To begin discussing the details of your case, Contact a Long Island fathers' rights lawyer at our firm for help with your family law matter.