Westborough Fathers’ Rights Lawyer
As a father involved in a family law case, it is not unusual to have the perception that the court is biased toward the mother. Although this has become less the case with a turn in the belief that children benefit most when able to spend substantial time with both parents, some parenting stereotypes still exist, resulting in child custody, visitation, and support orders that do not always protect your legal rights as a father or your relationship with your child.
Too often, upon ending a relationship, you may be seen only as a source of child support and not as an equally capable parent by the other parent. Because the amount of child support ordered may decrease significantly if you and the other parent share 50/50 physical custody, it is not uncommon for the other parent to want primary custody so you must pay more money. If you have questions about establishing paternity or are concerned about protecting your parental rights, a Westborough fathers’ rights lawyer could help. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our attorneys at O’Connor Family Law are prepared to handle the various aspects of your case while protecting your access to your children.
Potential Challenges to a Father’s Rights
If there is no evidence that you, as a father, are any less qualified to provide a safe and nurturing home for your child than the mother, your child will always benefit from your love, support, and involvement. Still, there are several court proceedings where it may be necessary to initially defend your rights as a father and to protect your relationship with your child. Fortunately, our attorneys in Westborough can offer their legal advocacy during these proceedings.
If you and the child’s mother were married when your child was born, Massachusetts’ law presumes that you are the legal father and you are automatically provided with rights to the child. However, if you were not married at the time of your child’s birth, you do not have any legal rights over your child until the Court grants them to you through an order. If you and the mother sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment, you do not then need to prove you are the biological parent within a custody action. However, if you have not signed this form and the mother does not list you as the father on the child’s birth certificate, you will generally first have to prove that you are the biological father through a paternity action before you can seek custody or visitation rights.
Signing the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage may lead to both parents believing that they are now legally the child’s parents with the same rights and responsibilities, but that is not accurate. This document solely provides some protection in cases where the mother may then seek an adoption or have social services involved in the case. It also only means that the father is responsible for financial support to the child. That document, in and of itself, provides the father with no legal or custodial rights to the child. An unmarried father must obtain custody rights through the Court; there is no other way to do this, even if the mother informally agrees that the father should have joint or even sole custody.
Once you file a paternity action in court, you will be ordered to submit to a DNA test and, by the end of the case, order that the child’s birth certificate be amended to include your name. If the testing confirms that you are the biological father, the court will issue an order formally establishing paternity and then you will have the ability to seek custody and parenting time.
If you have signed an Acknowledgement, but question whether you actually are the biological father, you only have a relatively small timeframe to take action before you will be legally viewed as the father regardless of whether you are actually the biological father. An attorney in Westborough experienced in advocating for fathers’ rights can assist you in any paternity proceeding.
Custody and Visitation
Once paternity is established, or if you have already been established as the biological father either through the Voluntary Acknowledgment or marriage, you have the right to pursue custody or visitation with your child, regardless of whether you and the child’s mother were ever married. The law requires that judges decide custody based on what is in the child’s best interest. The courts generally presume that it is in the child’s best interests for both parents to be involved in the child’s life and that both parents should have the ability to make joint legal decisions over the child. Therefore, shared legal custody is favored whenever possible. If you do not believe the child should be with his or her mother or that you should have sole legal custody, you must be able to prove that your child’s mother is unfit to parent and that it is not in your child’s best interests to be in their mother’s care.
It is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario where unmarried parents end their relationship and then the mother utilizes the child to “control” the father by denying access if the father does not follow her direction or demands for more money. In some severe situations, the mother may raise false allegations of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence to further restrict or control the father. Because many courts will provide an emergency or ex parte (when the alleged victim goes in and seeks a restraining order without you being present to tell your side of the story), it is important to retain a lawyer in Westborough who has experience defending fathers’ rights and can prepare a case that protects your relationship with your child if the mother even states she will go to the police or get a restraining order if you do not do what she says.
Termination of Parental Rights in Westborough
You have the right to a close and loving relationship with your child. However, under certain circumstances, your parental rights could be terminated. The termination of parental rights is usually a lengthy and complicated process with you being provided opportunities to reunify your relationship with your child prior to the termination. It can occur when the child’s mother seeks to sever your rights or when a state agency such as Massachusetts’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) initiates the termination through a care and protection action. If you have received notice that a termination proceeding has been filed, an aggressive local attorney can help you prove your value as a parent and preserve your rights as a father.
Contact a Westborough Fathers’ Rights Attorney
Exercising your parental rights or fighting to retain them can be difficult. It is often necessary to gather evidence, prepare legal documents, and appear in court. It’s also required that you are willing to do the work necessary to retain a close relationship with your child, especially if you have not been able to do so previously. If you are trying to establish your role as your child’s legal father or fighting for custody or visitation, contact our Westborough fathers’ rights lawyers. One of our experienced legal professionals at O’Connor Family Law can discuss your concerns and recommend a strategy to protect your relationship with your child.