Parents’ lives are replete with challenges, and ensuring their children are properly cared for and safe during a custody dispute adds another element of difficulty. This process can be especially frustrating for fathers because a father’s rights are not as straightforward or as frequently discussed as those of the maternal figure.
However, understanding your rights as a father includes all matters of childcare, from custody arrangements to decision-making.
Here is an overview of a father’s rights if he is on the birth certificate for a child and what to do if he is not.
What Rights Does a Father Have If He Is on the Birth Certificate?
The first step to establishing parental rights in disputes involving children is to ensure the father is listed on the birth certificate. Most commonly, this happens when the child is born.
However, if the father entered the child’s life later, such as through a new marriage, he must sign an affidavit of paternity or attest to his role as the father to take on this position legally.
Failure to do so means he does not possess paternal rights and is not in a legal position to make decisions for the child, participate in shared custody, and more.
If a father is on the birth certificate, he is supported by numerous rights that simultaneously seek to preserve the child’s best interest. These include:
Father’s Right to Legal Custody
Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions that affect the child’s future. This includes academic, religious, and medical choices.
A parent may be awarded sole legal custody or share this responsibility with the co-parent. Fathers have the right to be equally and fairly evaluated for suitability as legal custodians.
Father’s Right to Physical Custody or Visitation
Physical custody varies depending on the child’s situation, but in all circumstances, it refers to where the child spends their time.
Total or partial custody may be granted to a father who can provide suitable living arrangements and opportunities, regardless of whether he is married to the child’s mother.
The court will examine what is in the child’s best interest, and fathers have the right to receive fair treatment in assigning custody and enacting the agreement’s terms with the other parent.
Father’s Right to Child Support
Once custody has been determined, either parent may be required to pay child support to the other to fund the needs of the minor.
Fathers on the birth certificate have the right to receive child support from the mother as determined by the court and to have their assets fairly assessed to decide on their solvency in matters of child support allocation.
Father’s Right to Information
As a legally documented parent of the child, the father has the right to access important information about the minor. Whether or not the father has been granted physical custody or only visitation rights does not change the right to information.
This right is effective as soon as paternity is confirmed through an affidavit of paternity, paternity test, or other court-approved method and includes information such as vaccination history, living address with the other parent (if applicable), and whether the child is moving to a new location.
Rights Fathers May Think They Have
While Maryland law supports a father’s right to fair treatment and access to his child, wherein such access is in the minor’s best interest, these rights do not extend indefinitely.
Many fathers assume that they are entitled to make decisions about what occurs during the co-parenting time of the other parent, such as who the child may spend time with or how that time is spent. Each co-parent is solely responsible for their own custodial time.
Similarly, fathers often make the mistake of substantively changing their situation while the child is in their custody, assuming their custodial time does not impact the other parent.
However, a father who chooses, for example, to make a significant change, such as traveling internationally with the minor or moving to a new address, must collaborate with the other parent first. In some situations, a new custody arrangement must be created.
Defend Your Parental Rights With The Maryland Legal Team At SIEGELLAW
Custody hearings can be challenging during both parents’ lives and their children’s lives. During this complex process, fathers have certain rights to ensure they receive fair treatment and appropriate custody arrangements.
If you believe your rights are being violated as a father, or if you have questions or concerns about the custody process as the male parent, a legal team can help.