A father’s rights are essentially the same as mother’s – but they can be harder to enforce. He’s got more to prove.
A mother’s biological connection to her child is easily proven through childbirth, but fathers have to prove their paternity in order to establish their parental rights. Unfortunately for dads, there can be several roadblocks along the way, which we’ll examine below.
If a man was married to a child’s mother during the time of conception, the presumption is he’s the biological father. But, if they were not married at the time, he would need to establish paternity through official means, usually the home state’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. This will also engage his right to request visitation of the child, because it is seen as his right – and obligation – for the father to support his child financially through child support, if child support services rules it.
If the mother was married to another man at the time the child was conceived, the state could presume he is the biological father. In child custody cases, this is known as presumption of paternity.
If a divorced man believes his ex to be pregnant with his child, he can petition the court to prevent the adoption of that child to a third party. If he is out of contact with his ex, or suspects she has changed locations to seek an adoption without his consent, he can request putative father status from the state. Getting his name added to the putative father registry.
The putative father registry is a database that lists men who consider themselves possible biological fathers. The putative father registry is managed by many states, and there are no federal laws regulating these registries. The putative father registry is intended to provide legal recognition of the biological father of a child, as long as he registers, usually, within 30 days of the child’s birth. Fathers who register with the putative father registry will be notified if the mother puts the child up for adoption. They are not, however, guaranteed any rights in contesting the mother’s decision, nor are they guaranteed the ability to adopt or gain custody of the child. He is only guaranteed notification, and the right to appear in court to testify about the child’s best interests.
In cases where the biological father is voluntarily absent from the child’s life, and the mother wishes to remarry, some states will permit a step-father to file for adoption. Child support services usually require that several attempts be made to notify the biological father of the pending adoption. This is important: notification may be made through public notices, newspaper announcements, and other like forums.
There are many organizations around the country that focus on supporting and maintaining fathers’ rights, both in family courts and through legislative action. Groups such as the Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents’ Rights (ANCPR), the American Coalition for Fathers and Children (ACFC) and the Children’s Rights Council (CRC) are great resources for information.
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