Even in the heat of a break-up, many fathers only want the best for their child. The bond between a father and their child can be just as strong as a mother-child relationship. However, the law tends to favor maternity rights when it comes to child custody, which forces fathers to work harder in these battles.
This particularly affects fathers who were not married when the child was born and never established paternity, which would have given legal parenting rights. In this situation, the mother is usually the only one legally responsible for your child, even if you have handled an equal or larger share of parental duties over the years.
While the court may automatically favor the mother-child relationship, you can do several things to balance the legal scales:
- Contact an attorney to guide you through asserting your rights as a father. Doing so at the beginning of this process can help you avoid easy mistakes that cost some fathers custody and visitation rights.
- Figure out exactly what your responsibility toward your child includes. Write down the ways in which you care for your child such as feeding and clothing them, medical care and reliable transportation. Both actions and financial support count. Also think about ways in which the mother may not be able to provide these to show a court that you have significant value in your child's life.
- Guard your actions. Lashing out at the mother, venting frustrations to your child, or coping through substance abuse could all work against you. Even if you feel stress during separation, find healthy ways to manage emotions.
The more you have been involved in your child's life, the greater your chance of earning legal paternal rights. A court will need substantial evidence of your dedication as a father, so ask your lawyer about how your unique situation can influence your parental status.