Historically, courts often gave preferences to a child's mother over a father in allocating child custody and deciding child visitation. However, as more fathers have fought for their rights in helping to raise their child, the courts have begun to recognize father's rights. Under Pennsylvania law, there is no longer a presumption that a mother should get custody of the children and the courts consider a number of factors in deciding custody.
Father's Rights in Pennsylvania
Fathers have a right to be a part of their child's life. A father has just as many rights as a child's mother to make sure their child is well cared for and given a safe and healthy environment. Unfortunately, for many fathers, it may still be an uphill battle to make sure their interests are represented. This is why it is important for fathers to take an active role in expressing their interests in:
- Seeking joint custody
- Seeking sole custody
- Enforcing visitation rights
- Seeking child support payments
- Proving paternity
- Preventing the mother from moving away with your child
Seeking Custody for the Father
Fathers may have a number of reasons for seeking primary child custody. The father may feel he is better able to provide for the child, can provide a safer environment, or the mother's living situation presents a danger to the child's safety. Fighting for custody or changing child custody orders can be difficult and is often a contentious process.
Divorce proceedings are often highly contentious, and child custody and child support are often in the middle of divorce disputes. In most cases, custody will be shared between parents. However, where parents cannot agree on sharing custody, the court will determine custody based on “the best interests of the child,” with the primary interest in the health and safety of the child.
If a father is fighting for custody, he should be prepared with evidence, records, and witness testimony to support his position. It is highly recommended to have an attorney on your side in a highly disputed child custody case to fight for your rights.
When a child is born to a married mother, the woman's husband is presumed to be the father of the child, unless both the mother and husband agree that another person is the biological father. If the mother is not married, both the mother and father have to voluntarily acknowledge the father's paternity through an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) form. If the mother and/or father do not both voluntarily acknowledge paternity, or if the father does not sign the AOP form, the child's father may have to be established by a court.
A father or mother can establish paternity any time up until the child's 18th birthday. Either party can file a “Petition to Determine Paternity” with the court. If the mother denies the father is the biological father of the child, the court can establish paternity through a DNA test. After a genetic test, the court will issue an order of paternity.
Challenging Paternity and Child Support
If a father thinks he may not be the biological father of the child and wants to challenge paternity, he should not sign the AOP form. If the father is denying paternity, the father can request paternity establishment through genetic testing. After a DNA test, the court will issue an order of paternity based on whether or not the individual is the biological father of the child.
Pennsylvania Father's Rights Lawyer
Mothers are not the only ones who care about their children. Fathers have just as much right to be a part of their child's life as the mother and should fight for their rights to provide for their children. An experienced lawyer on your side will help you fight for your rights to give your children the best care they deserve. Family law attorney David J. Cohen is devoted to representing the people of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas. Contact the David J. Cohen Law Firm, LLC today for a consultation.