What are Fathers’ Rights?

Biological fathers are given a set of rights and responsibilities over their children that are equal to the biological mother.

As the father, your rights and responsibilities are protected by law, as long as the presiding State recognizes your paternity over the child. Married fathers are legally presumed to be the father of the child born between the married couple, which protects the father’s constitutional rights once the child is birthed.

Fathers Custody

Rights of Unmarried Fathers

If you are an unwed father, you have the same constitutional rights over your child as the unwed mother; however, your paternity needs to be established before your rights are fully protected by law. One of the simplest ways to establish paternity over the child is to have your name on the child’s birth certificate.

If you are an unwed father, you must establish your Paternity/Parentage before you can proceed with custody or visitation orders.

If Paternity is Contested

If your name is not currently on the child’s birth certificate, you can establish your paternity/parentage and protect your fathers’ rights by signing and submitting a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form, also known as, an official Declaration of Paternity, or Affidavit Of Parentage.

If the unwed mother contests your paternity, you will need to File a Court Order for Parentage. State laws vary, but once you’ve filed this order, your paternity will be determined by the court via a hearing or after genetic testing results are available.

Your Rights as a Father

  • To decide what’s in the best interest of your children
  • To have care, custody, and control of your child, whether or not you are married to the mother
  • To educate and guide your children through lesson learning and discipline methods
  • To be a significant influence in your child’s life through regular contact and interaction with them
  • To give love and affection to your children without interference from the other parent
  • To be an active decision maker for choosing your child’s medical and dental practitioners, have complete access to medical records, as well as, partake in discussions regarding any other health related concerns of the child
  • To have complete access to your child’s school records and be welcomed at any school-related meeting or event regarding your child
  • To partake in parenting decisions and follow your own parenting technique with your child
  • To decide where your child will reside
  • To decide where your child will attend school and what schooling technique would best suit their needs
  • To decide what cultural and religious influences they will be exposed to

Responsibilities of a Parent:

  • Protect your child from harm’s way
  • Do not neglect your child’s needs
  • Provide for your child with appropriate shelter, clothing, and food.
  • Support your children physically, emotionally, and mentally
  • Provide your child access to an education
  • Provide your child with necessary medical aid and care
  • Guide your child on how to be a responsible citizen

Maintain your Fathers’ Rights

Your rights as a father could be threatened if a petition is filed for child custody and you are not prepared. To maintain your rights as a father, you will need to demonstrate to the Family Court that you are a capable and well-suited parent. To do this effectively, you must understand the criteria used to determine child custody and how to collect solid evidence that supports your case. To learn more about how to prepare for a child custody case, read Evidence Essentials.