Informally, we've been celebrating fathers in the U.S. for a little over 100 years. And we've been officially recognizing the third Sunday in June as Father's Day since 1966. But when it comes to the law, fathers have had specific rights and responsibilities for centuries. And in recent years, the fathers' rights movement has sought to expand those rights in family law scenarios.
So, with this Sunday being Father's Day, here's a look at the fathers' rights movement and the rights and responsibilities of fathers in the legal context.
The basis of the fathers' rights movement was a perceived bias in family law decisions, leaving men resentful for paying significant amounts of child support with little to show for it in terms of child custody. The movement, though often marred by veiled hostility to women or open misogyny, seeks more balanced shared parenting arrangements and interpretations of the "best interests of the child" standard when making custody decisions.
So, when do a father's rights actually kick in? For example, does a prospective father have any say in whether a pregnant woman can get an abortion? Normally, no. A woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy, even over the father's objections. And in most cases, women are not required to notify a father before an abortion.
What if having children was never in your plan, or a woman has a child over your objection? Do you still owe child support, even if you never tied the knot? Unfortunately, child support is an inescapable obligation, and if you have a child, a court can order you to either share custody or pay support, or both in some cases.
When it comes to custody for unwed parents, fathers who establish paternity generally have the same custody rights as those who were married, then divorced. This means you can either come to a private parenting agreement with the mother of your child or petition a court to create one.
If you're struggling with any legal issues of paternity, adoption, custody, or child support, your best source of information and assistance is an experienced family law attorney. You can find one nearby, today.