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Exploring Fathers’ Rights

Exploring Fathers’ Rights

What Are My Rights as a Father Going Through a Divorce?  

In Ohio, married parents seeking a divorce or separation are on an even playing field when it comes to parental rights and responsibilities. Courts no longer assume that custody of the child(ren) should automatically go to the mother or that the mother should have the majority of the parenting time with the child(ren). A husband/father and wife/mother should be treated fairly, and the courts should look to the best interests of the child(ren) when establishing a parenting schedule or shared/custody arrangement 

Under Ohio law, a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if the man and the child’s mother are or have been married to each other and the child is born during the marriage or if the child is born within three-hundred days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, divorce or dissolution or after the man and the child’s mother separate pursuant to a separation agreement. Ohio law assumes the husband is the natural father of the child in such circumstances unless paternity is otherwise established for the biological father.  

These rights can be vastly different for unwed fathers, which is where a lawyer for dads rights comes in. 

What Are My Rights as a Father If I Was Never Married to My Child’s Mother?  

What Are My Rights as a Father

More and more often, people are choosing to start their family before they get married, or even in lieu of getting married. The marriage rate over the years has had a significant decline with 1 in 4 people believing that the concept of marriage is outdated. Although it is within one’s right to choose to have children out of wedlock, it is important to understand exactly how that decision may affect that person’s parental rights.   

Many people may find it quite surprising to know that Ohio law automatically provides unmarried mothers with sole (100%) custodial rights to the child at birth. A mother who has given birth to a child out of wedlock is given this right regardless of whether a father is present at the birth or involved in the child’s life, is named as the father on the birth certificate, or is in a relationship with the mother. Although this does not leave unwed fathers without options it does require the involvement of a court with appropriate jurisdiction.   

How Do I Establish My Parental Rights as a Father? 

The first step an unmarried father must take to establish his parental rights is to determine paternity which can be accomplished in one of two ways: (1) by the mother and father signing an affidavit acknowledging paternity at birth; or (2) through genetic testing. Without confirmation of paternity in one form or the other, parental rights cannot be established nor can an order for child support be rendered. A determination of paternity is just the beginning. Establishing paternity alone does not automatically give a father any parental rights (i.e. custody, shared parenting, visitation, tax dependency exemption, etc.). In order to be awarded such rights, father will need to file an action with the court requesting that such rights be established.   

The petition, called a Complaint to Establish Parent-Child Relationship, along with a motion requesting parental rights, should be filed to make such determinations in accordance with the best interests of the child(ren).   

It is also important to keep in mind that an unwed father’s initiation of an action to determine paternity and establish parental rights does not always have to result in a highly contested court battle between a mother and father as it is not uncommon for the mother and father to reach an amicable agreement as it relates to these issues.   

Meet with a Fathers’ Rights Attorney from Plakas Mannos  

Meet with a Fathers’ Rights Attorney from Plakas Mannos

Ultimately, unless a father establishes his parental rights under Ohio law, a mother has sole custody and sole decision-making authority regarding all aspects of the child’s life, including, but not limited to, education, medical care, and religious upbringing, not to mention the ability to relocate with the child out of state without consent. Whether you are an unwed father receiving regular parenting time absent a court order or an unwed father that is not afforded time with your child(ren), it is important to legally establish your status as a father with a court of jurisdiction and our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about legal rights for fathers.


About the Authors

Square Headshot of Marietta M. Pavlidis Square Headshot of Brooke Meneses Michael A. John

Marietta Pavlidis is a litigation attorney who practices in family law and workers’ compensation law. Brooke Meneses is an associate attorney whose practice includes child custody, family law, divorce, dissolution, spousal support, employment litigation, and personal injury. Michael John is an associate attorney who focuses on domestic relations, personal injury, and general litigation.

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