Family Law & Immigration Attorneys
Fathers' Rights in a Divorce

Fathers' Rights in a Divorce

Some fathers about to get divorced hesitate because of the question of what rights they have after the divorce. People believe the family court system has a bias for awarding custody to mothers. While more courts do award primary physical custody to mothers, this is usually because married fathers spend, on average, 6.5 hours a week taking part in primary child care activities with kids compared to a married mother’s 12.9 hours. These numbers were based on stats taken from a Pew Research Center analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) in 2011.

However, everything is dependent on the circumstances of each case. If a father spent more time with his children while they were growing up, a court is unlikely to separate him from his kids unless domestic abuse is involved.

As a father, you have a right to keep in contact with your children and a right to participate in their growth and development. This right is also dependent on your legal status as a father. If a couple is married at the time of the child’s birth, the state will assume the husband is the child’s father. His name will be on the birth certificate, and this document establishes his legal right as a parent.

The problem happens when the couple is unmarried at the time of the birth, or the child is from a previous relationship. If the couple is unmarried, the father must prove his paternity before he can be considered the legal parent of the child. This can be done at the time of the birth by both parents signing an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at the hospital. In other cases, genetic testing might be done on the father and the child, and the results are recorded in a court order.

Without establishing paternity, a father doesn’t have the legal right to custody of his children. In Missouri, custody will usually go to the mother if the couple is unmarried. However, the state just passed a new law in 2016 that encourages judges to award equal child custody time to each parent. While it doesn’t mandate splitting the time 50/50, it does make it clear there is no predetermined parenting plan for every couple.

If you’re concerned about your rights in an upcoming divorce, the best thing to do is discuss the details of your situation with an experienced St. Charles divorce attorney. Smith Law Offices, LLC understands you are probably facing a significant amount of stress. We do our best to provide high-quality service to our clients and help them prepare for even the most complex of cases. Let us use our more than 20 years of legal experience to assist you with your family law case.

Contact us about your situation today!

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