It is no secret that fathers have been fighting an uphill battle when it comes to child custody and visitation rights.

In California, fathers have certain legal rights and options during divorce. They can either file for child custody and visitation or file for child support.  In order to know these rights and options, it is important that you read up on the topic beforehand.  

Read on to know about your rights. 

What rights do you have as a father in California?

Father’s rights during a divorce in California may seem like they are non-existent, but there are actually many rights that fathers have during this process. 

While mothers have traditionally been seen as the primary caretakers of children, fathers are now playing a larger role in their children’s lives and are therefore more involved in the divorce process.

Fathers have the right to be involved in all aspects of the divorce proceedings, including child custody and visitation agreements. They also have the right to request child support from the other parent. In some cases, fathers may even be able to receive alimony from their ex-spouses.

It is important for fathers to understand their rights during a divorce so that they can protect their interests and their relationship with their children.  

The law in California prefers that parents equally share the decision-making related to their children. This is the reason why courts award joint legal custody in most cases for parents.

As a father, you have the right to make decisions related to these aspects when it comes to your child:

  • Academics and extracurricular activities.
  • Activities related to non-school activities
  • The child’s health, medication, and doctor visits including orthodontists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals
  • The child’s religion 
  • The right to receive information from the school pertaining to your chid
  • Matters related to where your child will live and travel
  • Psychological, psychiatric, and mental health therapy or counseling
  • Summer camp, sports, and vacation

Let’s look at the rights you have as a father when it comes to child custody, support, and visitation.

Child custody rights 

In California, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. 

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s welfare, including decisions about education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. 

Physical custody refers to the right to have the child live with one parent. 

Physical custody can be joint where the child lives with both parents, or primary/sole physical custody. With sole custody, the child lives most of the time with one parent and visits the other parent.

In most cases, both parents will have joint legal and physical custody of the child. However, in some cases, one parent may have sole legal and physical custody.

However, when it comes to child custody and visitation in California, the courts always put the child’s best interests first. This means that if the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make a decision based on what is best for the child. 

There are some factors that may be considered when making a determination about what is in the child’s best interests:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s health and special needs (if any)
  • The distance between each parent’s home
  • The work schedule of each parent
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child emotionally and physically
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and other family members
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse by either parent
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • The child’s preference (if the child is old enough to express a preference)
  • The ability of each parent to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

 Ultimately, the goal is to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child.

As a father, you have the right to request physical custody of your children in a divorce or paternity action. If you are married to the mother of your children, you have an equal right to custody as she does.

You also have the right to request joint legal custody, which would give you the ability to make decisions about your children’s upbringing with the mother. 

To request sole legal custody, however, you will need to prove that:

  • the mother is not legally fit to take care of the children, or
  • that living with their mother is not in your child’s best interests.

According to an estimate, one out of every five custodial parents in the US is a father. However, the percentage of fathers who are sole custodians has not been increasing at a rapid pace.

In most cases, proving that the mother is not legally fit to be the custodian and obtaining sole custody can be challenging.

This is why it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.

Visitation rights

If you are a father in California, you have the right to spend time with your child. This is called visitation. You may have to pay for it, but you have the right to see your child.

The courts will usually grant visitation rights to fathers, as long as it is in the best interest of the child. If the mother does not want the father to see the child, she will have to prove that it is not in the best interest of the child.

If you are a father and you want to see your child, you should first try to work out an agreement with the mother. If you can’t reach an agreement, you can ask the court for help.

Child support

In California, both parents are required to support their children financially. The non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent. The amount of child support is based on a number of factors, including each parent’s income, the amount of time each parent spends with the child, and the child’s needs.

Child support payments are generally made until the child reaches the age of 18. However, in some cases, payments may continue until the child is 19 or 20 if they are still attending high school full-time. If a child has special needs, child support payments may be ordered to continue indefinitely.

If you are a non-custodial parent and have questions about your child support obligation, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations under California law and can assist you in negotiating a fair child support agreement with the other parent.

woman observing father;s rights in a family

Unwed Father’s Rights

In California, the legal standard of paternity is based on the Uniform Parentage Act. Under this act, a father is presumed to be the legal parent of a child if he was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth.

If a father was not married to the mother at the time the child was born, they do not have any legal rights or responsibilities toward the child. 

If you subsequently married the child’s mother or are the unwed biological father of the child, will need to establish paternity. 

To establish paternity, an unwed father must take legal action and assert his rights. Otherwise, he may be left out of important decisions regarding his child’s life, including decisions about education, medical care, and religious upbringing.

You can establish paternity by voluntarily signing a Declaration of Paternity form, which is available from the California Department of Child Support Services. The other way is through DNA testing.

 If the father takes this route, they will need to file a petition with the court to get custody or visitation rights. The court will then order DNA testing and make a decision based on the results.

The situation also gets complex if the mother of your child is married to someone else. Irrespective of who the biological parent is, in this case, the husband of the mother may be granted paternity.  

If this describes your situation, you will need to petition the court for your fatherhood. The court will make a decision based on the results of a DNA test.

Once paternity is established, the unwed father has the right to seek child custody and visitation. The father also has the responsibility to support his child financially.

The best interests of the child are the top priority when it comes to child custody or visitation decision. However, if an unmarried father can prove that they are capable of providing a stable and loving home, they may be awarded joint or sole custody. 

The court will also consider factors such as the relationship between the father and child, the child’s preference, and any history of abuse or neglect.

When to seek legal help?

Fathers should seek legal help as soon as possible after they are served with divorce papers. 

California law requires that each party to a divorce must be represented by an attorney, and it is best to have an attorney who is familiar with the state’s divorce laws. Fathers can lose important rights if they do not have an attorney representing them, and they may not be able to negotiate a fair settlement of their case.

There are a few different legal options for you as a father during a divorce. You can file for joint custody, shared parenting, or request that the court grant you primary custody of your children.

There are a number of times when it may be beneficial for you as a father to seek legal help during a divorce in California. 

If you believe that you are not being given an equal opportunity to participate in the child’s life, seeking legal help is important to ensure that his rights are protected. 

Additionally, if you believe that the mother is not providing adequate financial support for your child, you have the option to seek legal help in order to obtain an appropriate child support order. 

Fathers who are interested in seeking primary custody of their children may also want to seek legal assistance. The other instances include being denied visitation rights or wrongly being accused of domestic violence that can hamper your chances of protecting your custody and visitation rights.

In general, fathers should seek legal help whenever they feel like their rights are not being respected or they are not being given an equal opportunity to participate in their child’s life.

Why consult a Riverside family attorney?

Fathers in California have a few different options when it comes to asserting their rights. They can file for joint or sole custody, child support, or visitation. The best course of action will likely depend on the specific circumstances of each case. However, fathers should know that they do have legal options available to them and shouldn’t hesitate to seek out help if they need it.

Whether you are seeking joint or primary custody of your children or looking to spend more time with your children, an experienced attorney can help you negotiate with the other parent.

Fathers also have the right to seek child support from the other parent. An attorney can help you calculate the appropriate amount of support and ensure that it is paid in a timely manner.

In addition, a trusted family law attorney can help you protect your assets and ensure that you receive your fair share of the marital property. If you are facing allegations of domestic violence or abuse, an attorney can also help you defend yourself against these charges and protect your rights.

Contact Heath Baker Law For A Consultation With A Divorce Lawyer Today

No matter what issues you are facing during your divorce, it is important to consult with an experienced Riverside family law attorney who can protect your rights and advocate for your best interests.

As the top-rated family law attorneys in Riverside, California, The Law Office of Heath L. Baker can help protect your rights as a father.  

While protecting your rights in California during the divorce may seem like a daunting task, with the help of our experienced attorneys, it is possible to get the outcome you deserve. 

We represent clients in all of the courts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, along with limited courts in San Diego (Vista), Los Angeles (Pomona), and Orange County. Give us a call to speak to our knowledgeable and empathetic family law attorneys.