Single Fathers' Rights & Responsibilities

7 Single Fathers' Rights & How to Protect Them

Single fathers' rights are essentially the same as single mothers' rights. Yet fathers' rights can be harder to enforce, simply because a mother's biological connection to her child is generally proven through childbirth, while single fathers are often forced to establish paternity before they can fully exercise their parental rights. In addition, many of the factors listed below can interfere with single fathers' rights, which is another reason why it's so important to...MORE know your rights and responsibilities as a father.

7 Single Fathers' Rights & How to Protect Them

  • 01 of 07

    The Right to Maintain an Ongoing Relationship With Your Children

    Father and son eating breakfast
    Fathers rights include responsibilities. Photo © Mike Kemp/Getty Images

    Single fathers have the right to maintain an ongoing relationship with their children through regular parenting time. Keep in mind, though, that this can be challenging, especially when your children are very young, and again when they become teenagers and start to develop their own busy lives. Work with your children's mother to establish a formal parenting plan so you both know exactly how and when you will both be involved.

    Factors to Consider:

    • If you have been absent from your...MORE children's lives for any length of time, it can be difficult to step back in and resume your role. 
    • You may need to regain your ex's trust by keeping your word and demonstrating your desire to be a consistent part of your kids' lives.
  • 02 of 07

    The Right to Claim Paternity

    In general, if you were married to your children's mother during the time they were conceived, it is presumed that you are the biological father. However, if you were not married at the time, you will need to establish paternity through your state's Office of Child Support Enforcement. This will simultaneously open the door to your right to request visitation, as well as your right—and responsibility—to support your child financially through child support, if deemed necessary.

    Factors to...MORE Consider:

    • If the mother of your child was married to another man when your child was conceived, then the state may presume that that he is your child's father.
    • This is called the presumption of paternity, and can interfere with your right to claim paternity.
  • 03 of 07

    The Right to Prevent Third-Party Adoption

    If you are unmarried, and your ex is pregnant with a child you believe is yours, you can prevent the adoption of that child to a third party. If you are not in contact with your ex, or you suspect that she has gone elsewhere to facilitate an adoption without your consent, you can request that your name be added to your state's putative father registry.

    Factors to Consider:

    • In cases where the biological father is voluntarily absent from the child's life, and the mother wishes to remarry,...MORE some states will permit a step-father to file for adoption.
    • Generally speaking, several attempts must be made to notify the birth father of such a pending adoption.
    • Notification may be made through public notices, newspaper announcements, etc.
  • 04 of 07

    The Responsibility to Provide Ongoing Financial Support

    As previously mentioned, establishing paternity will simultaneously open the door to your right to visitation, as well as your responsibility to support your children financially. Visit your state's Office of Child Support Enforcement website for help estimating how much child support you may owe. Generally, the child support amount will depend your state's methodology, combined with a number of other factors such as your employment, financial history, and the number of children you...MORE support.

    Factors to Consider:

    • Once a parent has fallen behind on child support, it can be extremely difficult to catch up.
    • For single fathers who owe unpaid child support: Since child support and visitation are viewed differently by the courts, you should be able to continue regular visitations while attempting to pay the debt.
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    The Right to Spend Time With Your Children Regularly

    Single fathers who do not share custody with their children may have the right to regular visitation. In general, creating a consistent visitation schedule will make regular visits easier on everyone—especially in the beginning.

    Factors to Consider:

    • Single fathers who have lost visitation rights or child custody due to domestic violence or drug or alcohol abuse may need to submit to supervised visitations for a period of time.
    • In this case, be patient and do what is asked of you by the courts; this...MORE will help you eventually be able to resume regular visitations with your children.
  • 06 of 07

    The Right to Make Collaborative Decisions

    Fathers who share legal custody of their children have the right and responsibility to collaborate with their children's mother on issues such as education, religion, and medical care.

    Factors to Consider:

    • Before granting joint legal custody, many family court judges want to see proof that both parents are able to collaborate effectively regarding everyday decisions related to child-rearing.
    • Do your part to collaborate with your ex regarding parenting decisions.
    • When disagreements arise, remain...MORE calm and communicate with one another clearly.
  • 07 of 07

    The Right to Co-parent and/or Share Joint Custody

    Some states now recognize that in cases where both parents were equally involved prior to a divorce or separation, it is important for the well-being of the children for that pattern of equal involvement to continue. To find out more about your state's stance on shared parenting, become familiar with the child custody laws of your jurisdiction. Know, too, that co-parenting has many different implications. Some co-parents share physical custody, and others do not.

    Factors to Consider:

    • Again,...MORE courts want to see that parents can and will work together effectively before granting joint physical custody or equal parenting time.
    • Do your part to collaborate peacefully and effectively regarding all parenting decisions.