The Truth About Father’s Rights on Long Island
When most people consider child custody on Long Island, they think about married couples getting a divorce and determining how parenting time is divided between the two. However, divorcing couples are not the only people who have to deal with matters of child custody. These issues also affect unmarried parents, and traditionally, most people also think unmarried fathers automatically have fewer parental rights than unmarried mothers do. However, as New York law progresses and the State has realized that a child mentally and emotionally benefits greatly from equal time spent with each parent, unmarried fathers are gaining ground.
To Gain Parental Rights, You Must First Establish Paternity
Establishing paternity is an absolute necessity to gain any type of parental rights to a child. There are several ways unmarried fathers can go about this:
- Signing the hospital birth certificate. Even if the parents are unmarried, the father can sign the birth certificate — also considered an acknowledgement of paternity — which will afford him legal rights to the child.
- Petitioning the court. An unmarried father can petition the New York Family Court to consider naming him as the legal father of the child. This is known as obtaining an Order of Filiation and typically, this is done after DNA evidence has been obtained that he is, indeed, the child’s father. Once a father has an Order of Filiation, he can ask the court to enforce his parental rights if the mother of the child is uncooperative.
It’s important to note that once paternity is legally established, an unmarried father then becomes financially responsible for the child. He will typically be ordered to pay child support in an amount that is calculated based on his earned salary. However, most unmarried fathers do not go through the challenges of establishing paternity simply to pay child support. They desire to exercise their legal rights as the child’s father for a variety of reasons.
Rights of an Unmarried Father
Once paternity is proven, the rights of an unmarried father are that of a married father. He has the legal right to be involved in decisions regarding his child’s health and welfare. He also has the right to visitation with his child or even joint custody. A mother cannot legally interfere with a father’s visitation or custody rights once paternity has been established. A father can also deny third party adoption if the mother plans to offer the child up for adoption. In such a case, he may seek to have sole custody or to participate in the selection of adoptive parents.
In a case where a father believes the child is unsafe with the mother, he has the right to request a hearing to determine if the mother is unfit and he can assume full custody. This is rare, however, and is generally only granted when it can be proven that the mother has a substance abuse problem or has harmed or abused the child in some way. However, without establishing paternity first or obtaining an Order of Filiation, an unmarried father has no more right than the average person to help a child in an abusive situation.
Protect Your Rights as a Father. Contact Our Long Island Divorce & Family Law Firm Today
New York laws are changing in regards to child custody and although unmarried mothers still have the upper hand by default when it comes to rights over a child, there are ways that unmarried fathers can assert their parental rights and petition the New York Family Court to uphold them. The process can be long, exhausting, and expensive, however, it has been proven time and again that children benefit from meaningful relationships with both parents. Furthermore, if a father believes his child is in danger from the mother, he has a responsibility to protect the child in whatever way he can.
Don’t let your father’s rights be denied by your child’s mother or by other officials who aren’t familiar with the law. Call our Long Island Divorce and Family Law Firm today for a free consultation to learn more about how to assert your rights as the legal father of a child at 631-923-1910. Or, fill out our quick online form and we’ll get right back to you.
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