Table of Contents:
- Idaho Custody Laws on a Father's Rights
- Fathers' Rights to Child Custody in Kansas
- Fathers Custody Rights in Florida
- A Father's Custody Rights in Pennsylvania
- Child Custody Rights for Fathers in Texas
Legal Definition of Father
Legally, you are automatically considered to be a father if you adopted or biologically fathered a child during your marriage to his mother. You are a "presumptive father" if a child is born or conceived while you are married to the birth mother, even if you suspect the child isn't yours. You are a "putative father" if you fathered or think you fathered a baby but were never married to the birth mother.
Like most states, Idaho law gives both parents the same rights to legal and physical custody. In practice, nationwide mothers are awarded custody in most custody cases, and fathers get sole custody only 10 percent of the time, according to Divorce Lawyer Source, but the court system is starting to give the father's desire for custody equal weight. According to Idaho law, custody is to be awarded solely based on the best interest of the child.
Presumptive Father's Rights
If you discover that a child born into your marriage isn't yours biologically, you can file an affidavit of nonpaternity in court. If the birth mother and the biological father also acknowledge this, then the court may enter a support order for the biological father at that point. If you discover that you've been supporting a child that isn't yours and that the birth mother knowingly deceived you, you can file a motion to get your money back.
Putative Father's Rights
If you father a child out of marriage, you can claim your rights as a father by filing with the Putative Father Registry with the vital statistics unit of the Department of Health and Welfare. You may file before the child is born. If the county or other agency starts proceedings to terminate the birth mother's custody of the child, or if the mother puts the child up for adoption, you have no rights unless you've already filed with the registry.
Unmarried Father's Right to Request Custody
While mothers automatically establish their parental rights by giving birth to their children, fathers who are not married to their children's mothers must get legal recognition of their paternity. Unmarried parents can cooperatively sign a Paternity Consent Form for Birth Registration to voluntarily identify the child's father with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Alternatively, if the parents do not sign a voluntary acknowledgment, a father can file a paternity action with the Kansas state courts to request a court judgment recognizing him as the child's father. Once a father has received legal recognition of the parent-child relationship, he has the right to request custody and visitation.
Married Father's Right to Request Custody
When a mother gives birth to a child while married, Kansas law generally presumes that her husband has parental rights. Kansas also presumes that the husband is the child's father if his wife gives birth within 300 days of the couple's divorce. Men presumed to be fathers under Kansas law have parental rights and can initiate court proceedings to request child custody. Fathers must often make decisions regarding child custody as part of their divorce cases.
Types of Custody
The Kansas courts will consider the child's best interests when choosing the appropriate type of custody for the child. Kansas recognizes several types of child custody arrangements. The Kansas courts prefer to grant joint custody, an arrangement that allows both the father and mother to make parenting decisions even if the child primarily lives in one parent's home and has scheduled visits with the other parent. When one parent cannot exercise custody rights because they are unfit or incapable of doing so, the court may grant sole custody to one parent, which allows that parent to make all parenting decisions. The child will live with the parent who has sole custody, though the other parent may have scheduled visitations. Infrequently, a Kansas court will award divided custody, with different custody arrangements for the children in the family.
Parenting Plan Requirements
When a father and mother wish to share the custody of their children after the end of their marriage or relationship, the Kansas Judicial Branch often requires that they develop a written plan to share parental rights. A parenting plan includes information about where the child will live and when the child will spend time with each parent, including weekends, holidays and school vacations. This plan also discusses the religious and educational principles under which the parents will raise the child. When mothers and fathers cannot agree on a parenting plan, the Kansas courts may require negotiation with the help of a mediator.
In Florida, a "parenting plan" will guide divorcing parents regarding any decisions relating to their children. The courts encourage the parents themselves to develop the plan, but if they cannot, the court will establish the plan. The plan will include a time-sharing schedule as well as a plan regarding decision-making about the child's health care, education and general well-being.
The court will consider any past domestic violence when drawing up the plan as well as other aspects of the family’s history. Florida statutes set out these precepts equally for fathers and mothers. The Florida Legislature expects Florida courts to make their determinations of what constitutes the “child’s best interests” according to objective standards.
Florida’s courts review both parent’s financial abilities when deciding on the amount of child support that each should pay. Both parents have an equal share of the responsibility to support their children in accordance to the children’s needs and the financial abilities of each parent. Florida Child Support Guidelines (see Resources) assist the court in deciding the appropriate amount of child support that each parent must contribute to their children’s support.
Florida courts will not allow a custodial mother to deny the father his parental rights to visitation and a role in the decision-making process regarding the child because of a disagreement or delinquent child support payments. Florida courts direct that neither parent may withhold visitation privileges because of wrongdoing of the other.
Florida fathers who feel that the courts have not given them equal rights to parent their children, make decisions about their children’s lives, see their children as often as they believe that they should or pay child support that fairly represents their income and the income of their ex-spouse can turn to the Florida Men’s Resource Center (see Resources).
The FMRC has branches in Boca Raton, Bonita Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Palm Harbor, Tampa/St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach. The staff of the FMRC provides information and resources to fathers who feel that their rights to equal parenting have not been addressed by Florida courts. The resources that the FMRC provides allow Florida fathers to gather information independently and assess their chances for successfully challenging an unfair child custody, visitation or child support ruling.
Primary Physical Custody
In Pennsylvania, a father has the right to seek primary physical custody of his child, which means his child will reside with him and visit the mother. It also means that he will be responsible for caring for his child or children and have the ability to request child support from the mother. The term "primary physical custody" further clarifies arrangements when there is joint physical custody. In Pennsylvania, fathers seeking primary physical custody can only seek custody if their child has resided in the state for six consecutive months. Exceptions are if a child is less than six months old and has lived in Pennsylvania since birth or if the welfare or lives of the children are in danger. In some counties, such as Allegheny county, a father who applies for custody must undergo mediation with a court-appointed mediator. If an agreement cannot be reached, fathers have the right to hire counsel and ask for a psychological evaluation of the mother, to obtain school records for the child, to ask the child's preference as to whom he or she wishes to reside with (however, the child's reason for custody must be justifiable for it to be considered by the court), and for matters pertaining to religion and medical care.
Partial Physical Custody
Partial physical custody denotes that a parent can have physical possession of the child for short periods of time, generally a few days to a few weeks at a time. Partial custody differs from visitation in that visitation does not allow the child to be removed from the house of the primary physical custodian. It is important for fathers to recognize their right to partial physical custody and that partial physical custody is not based on whether they are paying child support. The state of Pennsylvania considers child support and custody to be separate matters.
Shared Physical Custody
Shared physical custody, also known as joint physical custody, serves to equalize the contact and communication a child has with both parents. It also splits overnight possession of the child equally. It is important for fathers to understand the problem that shared physical custody imposes on child support obligations. Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not ruled on a practical system for calculating child support in shared-custody situations, fathers can refer to cases such as Seawalt v Muldoon in which the court granted the father credit for his expenditures while the child was in his custody for periods equal to those of the mother.
In Texas, a father is the legal father if he is married to the mother when the child is born. However, if the parents are not married, the biological father has no legal rights to the child until he establishes paternity. Texas has two ways of establishing paternity. Firstly, both parents must voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Alternatively, paternity can be established by court order after a genetic test. Once paternity is established a legal father has equal rights to seek custody of his child.
Equal Rights Amendment
Texas law treats parents equally when determining custody. Texas adopted the Equal Rights Amendment in 1973, requiring that a court consider "the qualifications of the respective parents without regard to the sex of the parent."
Because custody disputes can be costly and may damage the parents' relationship with the child, parents sometimes chose to create their own custody agreement. If they can agree on custody, and the agreement is fair and in the child's best interests, a court will approve the custody arrangement.
Joint Managing Conservatorships
Texas courts presume that joint managing conservatorships (JMC) are in the best interest of the child. Since 1987, Texas law requires that a child should continue to have frequent contact with both parents, so long as the parents are able to cooperate in sharing the responsibilities of raising the child. JMCs are Texas' classification of joint custody, meaning parents share rights, responsibilities, duties and privileges that come with raising a child. With JMC, usually one parent decides where the child will live, but the parents jointly make decisions regarding the child's care, including education and medical needs.
Best Interests of the Child Standard
In order to insure that a custody order is in the best interests of a child, Texas courts examine several factors. They include the number of children at issue; the age of those children; the parents' ability to share joint custody; the children's preference; each parent's fitness to adequately care for the children; the children's relationship with each parent; the need to maintain stability in the children's lives; the parents' employment situation, including hours and need for frequent out-of-town travel; and the location of each parent's home.