What are Fathers’ Rights?

Fathers Rights in California
Many would argue that there is a gender bias in family court. What is interesting is that some vehemently argue that the court favors women, while others claim that the court has a bias towards men. Each side sees bias; in fact, the court used to routinely award custody to the mother, assuming that she was the more “nurturing” parent. Today, states like California assume that each parent has equal rights and responsibilities regarding a child, but many feel that fathers’ rights are systematically ignored in favor of the mother. Is this true? What matters is whether or not it is true in your case.

The role of the father is often discounted, or seen as less important than that of the mother. But studies show that children do better in school, relationships, and home life when both parents are involved in their lives. Several studies show that when fathers are involved and nurturing, young children have better cognitive abilities, linguistic capabilities, and higher IQs. This is true throughout a child’s development, even into adulthood. Sociologist Dr. David Popenoe, a pioneer in fatherhood research says, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. Because of the importance of this role, fathers’ equal rights are essential.

During a divorce, fathers’ rights include:

  • Being involved in his children’s lives, interacting with them, and spending time with them.
  • Having equal say in important decisions regarding children, such as where they live or which religion they practice.
  • Participating in parenting.
  • Seeing school and medical records.
  • Deciding which doctors and dentists children see and participating in medical treatment decisions.
  • Parenting without interference from the other parent.
  • Disciplining the children.

These rights come with responsibilities, including financial support, protection from harm and neglect, and access to schooling and medical treatment. A father does not need a court order to obtain these rights – a father’s custody rights are already established. When a couple is married, the child is assumed to be the husband’s, and he does not need to prove paternity. He already has these rights, and should not abdicate them, even in the short term.

Are rights for fathers who are unwed the same? The rights and responsibilities are the same, but unwed fathers must prove paternity before they can assume full parental rights. The law does not presume a child born to unmarried parents is necessarily that of the partner. A declaration may be signed stating that he is a biological parent, or the father may file a paternity case with the court.

A fathers’ rights attorney can help ensure that your rights are upheld and that your case is effectively presented to the court. In short, if there is a bias against fathers, the attorney can help tip the scales in your favor, or at least balance the scales. In California, men enjoy the same rights as women and are entitled to equal custody and support. To make sure this happens, talk with a qualified California Divorce family law attorney.