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Ensuring fathers’ parental rights in custody and visitation cases

Parental rights for fathers and mothers are somewhat different, as some unmarried Pennsylvania fathers might find. For unmarried biological fathers, exercising custody and visitation rights begins with establishing paternity, the complexity of which depends on the relationship between the parents.

Establishing paternity

In situations where paternity is not questioned, the process might be as simple as both parents signing a document that states who the father is and submitting it to the court when the child is born or later on. When paternity is questioned, however, the process will include DNA testing, and then the court will issue an order establishing paternity. Establishing paternity is necessary for fathers to ask for custody and visitation.

How are custody and visitation decided?

When deciding custody and visitation, the court will consider a variety of factors. These include:

  • The best interests of the child
  • The primary caretaker of the child
  • Any outstanding issues that might affect the child, such as domestic abuse or drug addiction

The prevalent belief of the court is that children benefit most from having a stable, consistent relationship with both parents. As such, fathers can often negotiate agreements for shared custody or for consistent visitation. In amicable situations, the father and mother can negotiate a parenting agreement that works for the parents and the child and then submit it for court approval.

However, in situations where the parents do not get along, the court might have to decide, via court order, the custody and visitation schedule. A court order ensures the protection of both mothers’ and fathers’ rights.

Paternity laws are different from state to state. Fathers who want to protect their rights should become informed about these laws in their state in order to ensure that they can continue to be in their child’s life in a consistent and stable manner.