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Understanding fathers' rights and how to protect them

25281074_S.jpgMany say that a woman becomes a mother as soon as she becomes pregnant, while a man becomes a father after a baby is born. No matter how you view this situation, the reality is that every child has a mother and a father. The unfortunate reality is that some fathers are not provided the parental rights they are afforded after the birth of their child.

One should not assume that just because a mother births a child, the law is in her favor when it comes to custody. Even if a man did not know he was the father of a child until after the birth of his child, he can still seek rights and access to the child. Courts in Illinois and in states across the nation utilize the "best interests of the child" standard in cases where a father is fighting for custody or visitation rights.

In the U.S., the legal definition of a father does not always encompass the variety of situations biological fathers find themselves in. If the mother and father are married, a man is named on the birth certificate and is granted parental rights. Thus, if he seeks custody or visitation in a divorce, these requests may be granted if the court determines he is a fit parent and such arrangements are appropriate.

However, the paternity of a child is at question when a mother and father are not married when the child is born. This means that paternity must be established legally. The most common way to establish paternity is by filing for a DNA test in a court in the jurisdiction where the mother and child currently live. If a DNA test proves that a man is in fact the father, he can seek parental rights.

Whether you are seeking access to a child by gaining custody or visitation rights, a father will have to prove paternity if he is not married to the mother of a child. While this can seem complex and tedious, it is a necessary task to complete in order to ensure your fathers' rights are protected. If you are dealing with this or any other family law issue, it is imperative that you are aware of your options and what steps you can take to protect your rights.

Source: Livestrong.com, "Father's Rights With a Newborn Baby," C. Giles, June 13, 2017

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