Family law cases vary greatly, and no two cases are quite the same. Despite the differences, there are occasionally themes that seem to emerge. One such theme that comes up rather frequently in divorce and allocation of parental responsibilities cases is that of father’s rights. Often times, an individual will contact the firm and ask some variant of, “What are my rights as a father?” Because the issue is so ubiquitous, we’ve dedicated this article to discuss this concern and some of the reasons behind it.
Why is This a Concern?
The reason so many men have this concern is rooted in history. Historically, the courts were biased against fathers at least to some degree, due to the tender year’s doctrine. That doctrine was a crystallization of societal beliefs that women’s strengths related to child-rearing and homemaking. Thankfully, as society has progressed, misogynistic beliefs such as this have largely been tossed aside. As a corollary, the basis for biases against fathers has largely been undermined. However, it is due to this historical context, that many people believe that men are necessarily disadvantaged when it comes to seeking parental responsibilities.
Currently, the courts aren’t hobbled by notions that a parent’s gender is conclusive as to whether they are better equipped to shoulder parental responsibilities. Therefore, the courts don’t allocate rights on some perverse basis of father’s rights vs mother’s rights. Rather, the courts look to allocating parental responsibilities. This umbrella term allows for recognition that not all families fall into some traditional notion of family. Therefore, whatever the identity/sex/gender of the parents, the courts are able to appropriately allocate parental responsibilities.
When it comes to allocating parental responsibilities, the court’s paramount focus is going to be what is in the best interests of the child(ren). The best interests of the child are statutorily defined in most states, consisting of a list of various factors. When a court is called upon to allocate parental responsibilities, it will make findings on these 9 factors, and make determinations as to what will be in the best interests of the child(ren). From those determinations, the court will then allocate parental responsibilities.
Parental Responsibilities, in most states, is broken up into two separate components: parenting time and decision-making. Parenting time is just how it sounds — essentially which parent gets to spend time with the child(ren). This tends to include regular parenting time, holiday, and vacation parenting time. Decision-making details the extent of each parent’s rights when it comes to making important decisions regarding the care and upbringing of the children. This may include decisions regarding issues such as educational or medical determinations.
The law doesn’t make a distinction between the father’s rights and the mother’s rights. Rather, courts focus on parental responsibilities. When making these determinations, a court will be concerned with allocating parental responsibilities in such a way that the best interests of the child(ren) are promoted. If you have questions regarding parental responsibilities, take the time to consult with an attorney. Here at Modern Family Law, we provide free consultations with our team of family law attorneys. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation.