Given the high rate of divorced or unwed parents, many parents have begun to examine fathers' rights in child-rearing and family planning. Fathers' rights can include a father's right to parenting time with his children, the right to be consulted before adoption, and the right to time off from work to raise his child.
FindLaw's Fathers' Rights section has the information you need to understand a father's rights in relation to his children. In this section, you'll find in-depth articles on fathers' rights, covering topics such as parenting time and the consequences of parenting time interference, fathers' rights before birth and in family planning decisions, and the right to information regarding one's child. You can also learn about the fathers' rights movement, proposals for family law reform, and notable fathers' rights legal cases.
Fathers' Rights and Family Planning
When it comes to family planning, decisions about abortion, adoption, and raising a child can have long-lasting implications for both parents. If a parent is considering putting a child up for adoption, the father has the right to object and petition for custody. However, an expectant father who opposes the termination of a pregnancy has no legal right to prevent it. Similarly, if a father opposes carrying a pregnancy to term, he may still be responsible for child support after birth. Some advocates of greater fathers' rights have argued that fathers should have the right to "disclaim fatherhood" and refuse financial or legal responsibility for a child born against their wishes. This is a controversial stance.
Fathers' Rights to Parental Leave
Research has shown that the whole family benefits when a father takes time off when a new child arrives. To make it easier for parents to bond with their new children, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows for twelve weeks of unpaid leave for certain workers when a child is born or adopted. Several states require paid paternal leave, which can help mitigate the cost of leaving work to care for a child.
Both parents have the right to seek custody and visiting time with their child. When sole custody is awarded, one parent gains exclusive physical and legal custody over the couple's child. In shared custody arrangements, both parents share decision making responsibility for the child and often split parenting time more equally. Several states presume that shared custody is in the best interests of a child. However, many parenting advocates argue that children are better served when both parents play a large role in their lives.
Protecting Parenting Time
A parenting time agreement, often created or approved of by a court during divorce or custody proceedings, establishes each parent's right to custody and visitation time with their child. However, parenting time may be interfered with by the other parent. Parenting time interference can be direct, as in refusing to drop one's son or daughter off with the other parent. It can also much more subtle, as in purposefully disrupting communication between parent and child or using the child to spy on the other parent. In extreme cases, parenting time interference can be a felony crime and malicious or alienating acts by one parent against the other can lead to changes in custody and parenting time agreements.
When a Lawyer Can Help
If you are a parent seeking to protect your rights, a lawyer can be an invaluable advocate to have on your side. Consider contacting an experienced fathers' rights attorney who can help you protect your right to custody, prevent interference with your parenting rights and make sure you are involved in decisions regarding your child.
Learn more about the law on our father's rights legal answers page.