Parental Rights of a Father

By Stephen Saylor
Parental Rights of a Father

Many men who face divorce do not know their rights as fathers. As a result they are separated unnecessarily from their children. Other men who perhaps are not married to the mother of their children also do not know their rights and responsibilities as fathers. The result is a tragic alienation of men from their children and children who are deprived of the full participation of a father in their lives.


A man who is not married to the mother of the child does not have rights to custody. The custody is awarded automatically to the mother. A man who is not married to the mother who wants to gain custody of the children must prove he is the father through a DNA test if the mother does not agree that he is the father. He may request full or joint custody of the children through the court. He must file a form called a Petition to Establish Parentage, and an Order to Show Cause for Custody, Visitation, and/or Support.

A man who is married to the mother of the child has equal rights to custody and may challenge the custody in court.

Child Support

The National Fathers' Resource Center, a division of Fathers for Equal Rights, states, "Each parent has a duty to financially and emotionally support his or her children. We believe financial support should be provided for the child by both parents equitably without bankrupting either one and include meaningful visitation and fair treatment of the child(ren)." (

Fathers have the right and responsibility to be not only economic contributors to their child's life but an emotional support as well. It is the responsibility of both parents and their right to have time with the child to provide that emotional support. In the past the father has been the one to pay the great majority of financial support while the mother was seen as the emotional support. Now both parents contribute in both ways according to their means.


Fathers have the right to visit their children if they are the noncustodial parent. A court order for visitation will ensure the father's rights and give him a recourse if those rights are not granted. The visitation order must be signed by a judge.

A parent who denies the other his parental rights can be held in contempt of court. The visitation order should specify dates, times, place of pick up and requirements such as changes of clothing, medications and other conditions of the visit.

By bringing a witness and tape-recording the conversation, a father can document in court the denial of his visitation rights. Custody can be challenged on the basis of the best interest of the children to have a relationship with both parents. The National Fathers' Resource Center has excellent step-by-step instructions for this process. (


It is a misconception to think that fathers do not matter and have no rights. The law gives each parent equal rights and responsibilities in parenting. The court system makes every effort to guarantee that the best interest of the children is the main criterion for every decision. The time and financial investment required to gain information and legal protection is well worth it so as not to lose precious time with your children.


Child support is a responsibility of both parents. Unfortunately many fathers attempt to avoid this responsibility and as a result are not in a position to exercise their rights. It hurts the children to evade or neglect this responsibility, and hampers your ability to enjoy your rights as a father.

Failure to pay support may result in wage garnishments and levies. Moreover, if a support order has been granted by a judge, you may be found in contempt of court and do jail time. Fathers need to accept both their rights and their responsibilities in the best interest of the children.

About the Author

Stephen Saylor is a bilingual educator and translator who has been writing since 2005. He has contributed articles to websites such as and XtremeMusic. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts in education from San Diego State University.