Rights of the Father
It is a common misconception that Pennsylvania family law favors the rights of the mother over the rights of the father. While this possibility of prejudice may exist with certain judges, the law itself gives Pennsylvania mothers and fathers equal rights to their child.
Exercising your rights as a father can help you obtain custody and visitation, weigh in on adoption, and obtain child support. An experienced Chester County family lawyer can help you understand your legal options and take your case to court to exercise those rights if necessary.
West Chester PA Father’s Rights Attorney
Establishing and fighting for your paternal rights in Pennsylvania can be a complicated, emotional process. At Ciccarelli Law Offices, our experienced and knowledgeable lawyers work together to fight for the most favorable solution for your family. We are based in West Chester PA and serve the rights of Father’s in Chester County PA as well as suburban Philadelphia.
Call (610) 692-8700 or send an online message for a free consultation so we can act as soon as possible. We are based in West Chester PA and serve clients throughout Chester County, Lancaster County and suburban Philadelphia including West Chester, Kennett Square, Oxford, West Grove, Paoli, Malvern, Downingtown, Coatesville, Exton, Parkesburg, Berwyn and Devon. We have convenient meeting locations in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Radnor. Our family lawyers serve those with immediate legal needs in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County and Lancaster County.
Your Rights as a Father Under Pennsylvania Law
Though it may be advised, a DNA test is not required in Pennsylvania to establish paternity. For a married couple, paternity of the child is assumed to be the husband, unless there is substantial evidence brought forth to indicate otherwise.
For a mother and father who are not married, 23 Pa.C.S. § 5102(b) provides for the following determinations of paternity:
- Marriage of the couple after the birth
- The father openly holds out the child to be his, receives the child into his home and/or provides support for the child
- Clear and convincing evidence that the man is indeed the father of the child, including a prior court determination of paternity (such as a DNA test)
Additionally, unmarried parents can establish paternity by completing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, which establishes legal paternal rights to a child with the mother’s consent. If the mother does not consent, this form may be filled out by the alleged father only and filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare as a claim of paternity.
While the formal acknowledgment establishes full paternal rights, a claim to paternity only grants the father entitlement to notice of a proceeding for parental right termination. A paternity claim may also be used as evidence in later paternity court proceedings.
Once you are legally determined to be the father, you have the same parental rights as the mother when it comes to Pennsylvania law. These are determined by statute, precedent, and public policy, and include the following:
- Right to your name on the birth certificate
- Right to support child financially, as well as receive child support
- Ability to seek public assistance for self and child
- Right to pass property and legal benefits such as health insurance and social security to child
- Right to contest adoption
- Right to seek legal custody of the child, including the right to make medical decisions
- Right to seek physical custody of the child
- Right to enter into a contract on behalf of the minor child
- Right to seek child visitation and contact
It is important to consider that your actual right to custody and visitation is not a given. However, your right to seek that custody or visitation through the court process is a given. For instance, in a situation where the father and mother are not married or are separating, the right to seek custody or visitation means that if you can’t gain visitation or custody on a personal basis, you can pursue it in court. The court will then determine your custody or visitation rights based on the best interests of the child.
Since Pennsylvania law holds the rights of the mother and the father as the same, family law courts like those in the Chester County area apply the standard of a child’s best interest to who to grant custody and/or visitation to. This standard includes cases involving sole, partial, or shared legal or physical custody, and involves consideration of the following factors:
- Child’s preference
- Each parent or guardian’s individual qualities, including parenting skills
- Any factors impacting a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being
- Criminal convictions of parent or guardian or members of his or her household
- Past abuse or violent conduct of parent or guardian or members of his or her household
- Ability and willingness of parent or guardian to encourage or permit frequent contact with other parent or guardian
- Ability and willingness of parent or guardian to co-parent
Establishing what custody arrangement is most beneficial to your child can be difficult and time-consuming. An experienced West Chester family law attorney can help you through the custody process, as well as assist you in other matters involving your father’s rights.
Working with a Dad’s Rights Lawyer in Chester County PA
If you are seeking to establish or claim your parental rights as a father in Philadelphia, West Chester, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, or Radnor, contact our offices at Ciccarelli Law Offices. Your first consultation is free, so call (610) 692-8700 and schedule a time to discuss your case one on one with an experienced attorney from our firm.