Within divorce law, a number of myths and inaccuracies surround the topic of father’s rights. While there are some edge cases in which a father may have different rights than the mother in a divorce proceeding, legally, there are few if any clear differences between the father’s rights and the mother’s rights in a divorce.
In general, there are no special rights given or taken from fathers in a divorce. Fathers may be more likely to pay alimony, but that has more to do with the fact that fathers historically make more money and are breadwinners of the family. In divorce proceedings, a father has a right to argue for alimony, child custody, asset division, or any other aspect of divorce benefits.
In a child custody dispute, any parent can lose their visitation rights. Usually, in order to lose the right to visit their child, a parent would have to commit a grievous violation of the child’s rights or be otherwise shown to be a danger to the child’s wellbeing.
In general, the only way to lose visitation is to be charged and convicted of a crime that gives reason to believe that the child is not safe with that parent. This can include violent offenses such as domestic violence, assault, battery, or homicide. Visitation will also be stripped if the parent is found guilty of child-related offenses, including child endangerment, child neglect, child abuse, or child pornography. Some states may also remove visitation rights if the parent is convicted of a drug offense.
If a father does not want to have a legal claim over their child, they may consider signing over their rights. This can allow for a number of legal moves to be made, including the adoption of the father’s paternal rights by another individual.
Signing away parental rights does not immediately exclude a father from responsibility for their child. For example, signing away paternal rights does not remove the obligation of paying child support. The only thing that can remove the obligation of paying child support is for the children to turn 18 or for another adult to adopt the child. Signing away parental rights also does not mean that the father must stop interacting with their children, it just means that they legally can’t force the other parent to allow them time with their children.
In general, the courts favor the biological parents of a child over their step-parents. However, there are some ways that a step-parent can obtain the same rights as a biological parent. If a biological parent surrenders or dissolves their paternal obligations, the step-parent would then be able to legally assume parental responsibility through adoption. If this happens, then legally speaking, the step-parent would be granted full parental rights equal to that of the biological parent.