Fathers deserve to have the same opportunities to spend time with and care for their children. Child custody and/or support should be determined fairly by circumstances and facts presented, not by gender of the parent. There has been a dramatic shift of the family dynamic over the decades, unfortunately the law isn’t caught up with the times. The best way to learn your rights as a father to your children, is to talk to a father’s rights lawyer who knows the ins and outs of California’s family law.
On this webpage, you’ll find the basics of father’s rights laws for these topics below:
- Establishing paternity for child custody or support
- Child custody and/or visitation rights as a father
- What are the father’s rights when the mother remarries?
- Child Support
- Restraining order against the mother
- Establishing parentage when you’re not the biological father
- Speak with a father’s rights lawyer
Establishing Paternity for Child Custody or Support
It’s not always clear cut determining who the father of a child is. A family unit can have multiple children, but different fathers for each child. It’s not always the husband of the mother who is the father, unless he is legally named as the father. When the parents of the child are not married, at the child’s conception or when he/she is born, the father may not have the rights and responsibilities as a parent. To establish a father-child relationship, a declaration of paternity must be made.
To seek declaration of paternity, the father, mother or a third-party on behalf of the child, must start this process. Establishing paternity gives the father rights and obligations of a parent, including custodial rights and the responsibility to provide financial support. For more information on paternity, visit our main paternity page.
When the mother of a child names a man as the father of her child, he may be forced to pay child support. Unfortunately, false attribution of fatherhood happens more than we realize. It is not fair for a man to have to take a care of another man’s child.
If you have an inkling that the child that you’re supporting is not your child, getting a paternity test will help you confirm this. To learn more about what you can do if you’ve been falsely accused, visit our paternity fraud page.
Child Custody and/or Visitation Rights as a Father
When a child is born out of wedlock, there may not be 100% certainty of who the biological father is. The unmarried mother of a child has the primary rights to custody of the child. She legally has the right physical and legal custody of the child. The father won’t have the chance for custody of the child until paternity is established.
The best way to gain the rights to custody of the child is to get the man’s name on the child’s birth certificate as the legal father. With his name on the child’s birth certificate, the father will automatically be recognized as a parent of the child and will have equal rights as the natural mother.
If the mother doesn’t agree to name the father on the child’s birth certificate, there are other ways to gain paternal rights. Unfortunately, a father who is not married to the mother cannot win primary care of the child over the mother if she is a good parent. In this case, the father may establish some custody and/or visitation rights though. When it comes to custody right in California courts, the judge always considers the child’s best interest first. Visit our child custody and child visitation pages for more information.
What are the Father’s Rights if the Mother Remarries?
If the mother of your child remarries, as the legal father of the child you retain your fatherly rights. Your custody rights surpass the rights of the stepfather. If the stepfather wants to legally adopt the child, it can only happen if the father agrees to it. Think carefully before you agree to letting another man adopt your child because you may be giving up all of your parental rights, including visitation rights. For a detailed read on how complicated this situation can become, read Michelle W. v. Ronald W.
Legal parents of a child are required by law to support the child. This includes financial support. The law requires that one parent has to pay the other parent, who has custody of the child. Most situations have father’s paying the mother an amount of child support to care for the child. When you, the father, are the custodial parent you have the same rights as the mother to request child support.
Child support payments are ordered with the purpose of covering the child’s basic expenses, including food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention. As the father of the child and the custodial parent, you can get an order for the mother to pay you child support according to the parent’s ability and income to pay and the custody schedule between the two parents.
For more information, visit our child custody page.
Restraining Order Against the Mother
Children may need their mother, but there are times when a relationship with the mother causes damage to a child’s physical or psychological well-being. As the father, you may want to acquire a restraining order against the mother.
Reasons that you might need a restraining order to keep the mother from the child:
- She has an abusive boyfriend – it’s not safe for your child to be around this individual and you fear for your child’s health and safety
- She is a neglectful parent
- She is abusive to the child
- She uses illegal substances or is an alcoholic
The list above is not collective of all the reasons that you may need to request a restraining order against the mother. If you feel that there is imminent serious harm to your child when the mother interacts with him/her, that is reason enough. These restraining orders against the mother, also called an abusive prevention orders, can be requested if you feel that the mother’s companions are dangerous too. There are many established cases when the mother’s new boyfriend was abusive towards a child and the natural father was able to acquire a restraining order.
Establishing Parentage When You’re Not the Biological Father
A father may be a “presumed father” when he is not 100% confirmed to be the biological father of the child. A man may be presumed to be the father of a child if:
- He and the mother are married to each other and the child is born during this time or within 300 days after the marriage has ended
- He is named the father of the child on his birth certificate, with his consent
- He’s acknowledged his parentage in writing
- He’s been ordered by the court to support the child
- He voluntarily agreed to be obligated to supporting the child
- He took the child in and openly claimed to be the child’s biological father (In re Nicholas H.)
If you’re not the biological father of the child, you may file a paternity affidavit with the California court. Oftentimes, the court will order genetic testing to establish paternity. If not the biological father, you may volunteer paternity support, by a paternity suit and with the natural mother’s consent. If the man volunteers paternity support, he is not obligated to legally adopt the child too.
Speak with a Father’s Rights Lawyer
When you find yourself in a child custody or child support situation in which you need to exert your father’s rights, talk to a father’s rights lawyer. It is especially important if you have to fight false child abuse allegations! A father’s rights lawyer knows the family law of California and knows that you deserve equal rights as the mother of the child. Contact a family lawyer to discover what your rights are and what you can do to be the best father for your child. You deserve the chance to have custody of the child and to get support for him/her. On the other hand, if you’re obligated to support a child that you know is not yours, a father’s rights lawyer can also help you fight this.