The Law Offices of James A. Cuddy, LLC

Are unmarried dads at a disadvantage in family court?

When faced with a custody or parenting time dispute, fathers may feel as if they are at a significant disadvantage when going to family court. They may feel like judges are already prejudiced against them given how a majority of single parent households are headed by women. While this may be true, it is actually unmarried men who may be at a disadvantage compared to married men.

This post will explain why. 

Essentially, when a child is born out of a marriage, dad is entitled to certain rights as a matter of law. He is presumed to have joint legal custody and joint physical custody, so married dad does not have obtain a court order to establish these rights.

 On the other hand, unmarried dad is not afforded these rights until he petitions the court for them. This is because, an unmarried mother is automatically entitled to sole legal and sole physical custody of a child born out of wedlock.

Things may be more complicated between unmarried parents because the emotional issues may lead to unmarried dad going long stretches of time without seeing the child, or dad feeling as if he has no power in enforcing his rights. Additionally, the costs of seeking a legal remedy may be too much of a financial burden for dad to carry.

As such, unmarried fathers must be diligent in seeking custody and parenting time in light of the challenges they may face.  If you are a father to a child born outside of a marriage, an experienced family law attorney can help. 

Source: “What unmarried fathers have to worry about,” Claire Huntington, June 13, 2014

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