If you are a father who is seeking to be an active part of your child's life, you have recourse in the family court system. Fathers have parenting rights whether or not they were married to the mother of their children.
Like mothers, fathers are entitled to equal opportunity to obtain custody of their children and have a meaningful relationship with their child. Custody and visitation rights are not automatically granted to either parent, and protecting your rights as a father may mean seeking legal representation for court.
Both parents may be able to work with one another and agree on a parenting plan that will benefit their child. If necessary, this can be accomplished with the assistance of a court-appointed mediator. The family court judge will have the final say about custody and visitation, but can take into consideration the arrangement agreed upon by the father and mother of the child.
If an arrangement cannot be agreed upon, the judge will make a decision. According to California law, any decisions the court makes regarding the custody of a child will have to benefit the child's welfare.
The two types of child custody, legal and physical, differ by the type of privileges and duties they provide and can be awarded on a joint or sole basis. Joint custody allows both parents to have an equal say in the care of their child. Sole custody means that the privileges and duties are assigned to either you or the child's mother.
A parent who has legal custody of a child is responsible for making major decisions that can impact the child's life. This can include deciding which schools the child should attend, which type of extracurricular activities are appropriate and what type of non-emergency medical care he or she receives. Physical custody determines with whom a child will live and who will be responsible for his or her daily care.
A father's rights also extend to visitation. Visitation refers to how parents are able to share the time spent with their child. If your child is with you less than half the time, you can request visitation times. Visitation can be awarded with varying degrees of restrictions and stipulations, such as a supervision requirement or on a schedule, or it can be refused. As always, visitation will depend on the best interest of the child.
Learn more about your parental rights by speaking to an experienced family law attorney.