As a father, it’s very important to understand your rights in a child custody situation. You deserve to have a relationship with your child if you want one and you are capable of acting as a fit parent. Things can get complicated, but there are steps you can take to protect your parental rights.
For example, if you and your partner are not married, you will want to take a paternity test to verify your status as your child’s biological father. This verification could become very important in a scenario wherein your former partner is denying your custody rights. It could also be important if you believe you are not the father, but your partner is asking you to pay child support. Either way, a DNA test can clarify the situation and help to establish your legal rights either way.
Courts generally prefer shared custody
One thing that is important to understand is that modern courts tend to focus on shared custody arrangements. Some fathers believe that mothers are always given custody rights. It was more common for mothers to have physical custody in the past, as they were seen as caretakers for the children while men were seen as the main breadwinners. But studies have shown how important it is for children to spend time with both of their parents, so modern courts no longer intentionally express gender-based bias.
This shift does make things a bit fairer for fathers. However, it was not necessarily implemented with fathers in mind. Instead, courts are now compelled to focus on the child’s best interests when settling contentious family law matters that affect children. Since it is generally better for children’s development if they see both of their parents, the court will err on that side regardless of what the parents would prefer. Only serious issues, like abuse, will likely shift a court’s preference toward sole custody.
Exploring your options
Family law matters can get complicated quickly, especially if there are questions about paternity or disputes between you and your former partner. You’ll want to explore your options with a legal professional and make sure you know what legal steps to take in order to protect your rights if you’re navigating a contentious situation involving a child.