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Fathers may face challenges in family court

California fathers who are struggling to pay child support should still try to pay some portion of the amount. Ignoring these payments can lead to serious consequences including jail. This was the case for one pediatrician who went to jail for nonpayment of support, lost his job and had to file for bankruptcy. Other issues fathers may encounter include a struggle to establish paternity and get adequate visitation rights if unmarried and being blocked from seeing their children by a protection order. In most cases, mothers instead of fathers still get custody.

One man says that after learning his name was not listed on his child's birth certificate, he only got four nights per month of visitation time. Experts say unmarried fathers should act early on to get custody or visitation rights of a child. If they wait or if the state has to look for them, the process could be more complicated.

Another father says he was prevented from seeing his children after his wife said he did things such as trying to prevent her from leaving in a car with the children. Although he said he would not hurt his children, protection orders are generally put in place when a court has concerns about a child's safety. Fathers in this situation may want to talk to an attorney about possibilities for regaining access.

Courts do generally work from the assumption that children should have a relationship with both of their parents, so there may be things a father can do to show the importance of his role in his child's life, whether that is attending court-ordered parenting classes or going to the child's school meetings or medical appointments. A court will generally not remove a child from a mother's custody unless the child is in danger, but might expand a father's visiting schedule.

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