Worcester Fathers’ Rights Lawyers
Protecting Fathers in Worcester, Hanover, & Westborough, MA
As a father involved in a Massachusetts family law case, it is not unusual to perceive that courts are biased towards mothers. This perception has become less prevalent as beliefs have grown that children benefit most when parented by both their mother and their father. However, some stereotypes may still exist, resulting in child custody, visitation, and support orders that do not always protect the legal rights of fathers in these matters.
Too often, upon ending a relationship, as a father you may be seen only as a source of child support and not as an equally capable parent by the other parent. Because child support payments may be decreased significantly if you share 50/50 physical custody with the other parent, the other parent may want primary custody to ensure you pay more. If this describes your situation, if you have questions about establishing paternity, or are concerned about protecting your parental rights, we advise that you turn to O’Connor Family Law and one of our Worcester fathers’ rights attorneys. With many combined decades of exclusive family law experience, we are well-equipped to handle the various aspects of your case while protecting access to your children.
Potential Challenges to a Father’s Rights
If no evidence exists that you, as a father, are any less qualified to provide a safe and nurturing home to your child than the mother, your child will always benefit from your love, support, and involvement. However, several court proceedings exist where it may be necessary to initially defend your rights as a father and protect your relationship with your child. Our highly-respected attorneys can offer legal advocacy during these proceedings which include establishing paternity, custody and visitation, and termination of parental rights.
When parents are married at the time of a child’s birth, state law presumes that the father is the legal parent, giving him automatic parental rights to the child. If you were not married at the time of your child’s birth, you do not have parental rights until they are granted by the court through a court order. If you and the mother sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage, your paternity will be established. You will not have to prove that you are the child’s biological father. If you do not sign this form and are not listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate, you will generally have to prove that you are the biological father through a paternity action before you can seek custody or visitation rights. This generally involves a DNA test that confirms your paternity.
The Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage does not, in and of itself, provide you as a father with legal or custodial rights to the child. It does make you responsible for child support. Even if the mother informally agrees that you should have any form of custody, you can only obtain valid custody rights through the court. If you have signed an Acknowledgment but question whether you actually are the biological father, you only have a relatively small timeframe to take action before you will be legally viewed as the father regardless of paternity.
Custody & Visitation
If you have previously been established as the biological father through marriage or a paternity action, you have the right to pursue custody or visitation with your child. Massachusetts law requires that judges decide custody based on what is in the child’s best interests. Generally, courts presume that a child’s best interests are served by both parents’ involvement and ability to make legal decisions concerning the child. Therefore, shared legal custody is favored. If you do not believe the child should be with his or her mother or that you should have sole legal custody, you must prove the mother’s parental unfitness to care for the child.
In some cases, an unmarried mother may use her child to control the father by denying him access to the child if he fails to do as she says or demands more money. In the most serious of these cases, a mother may falsely allege abuse, neglect, or domestic violence against the father to further restrict or control him. Emergency restraining orders may be issued by the courts without a father being present. In such situations, you should retain our services if the mother even threatens police or restraining order actions against you.
Termination of Parental Rights
Under certain circumstances, parental rights can be terminated through court order. This is usually a lengthy and complicated process where you will be provided opportunities to re-establish your relationship with your child prior to any termination. This process can occur when a child’s mother seeks to sever a father’s rights or when a state agency such as the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) initiates a termination through a care and protection action. If you receive a notice that a termination proceeding has been filed against you, you will need an aggressive litigator who can help to demonstrate your value as a parent and preserve your parental rights. Our firm can provide the representation you need for this.
Work with a Highly-Respected Worcester Fathers’ Rights Attorney
Exercising your parental rights or fighting to retain them can be difficult. Doing so requires gathering evidence, preparing legal documents, and appearing in court. It also requires being willing to do the work necessary to foster a close relationship with your child, especially if this has not been done previously. Whether you are trying to establish your parental rights or fighting for custody or visitation, our experienced attorneys can help. After thoroughly understanding your situation, we can recommend a legal strategy to protect your fathers’ rights.
Need to get started resolving your fathers’ rights issue? Call us at (774) 214-2137 today.
My representation was far more superior than my ex-husbands.- Vicki
Thank you, Heather!- Jim
Attorney O’Connor is a professional and compassionate attorney.- James
I would definitely recommend her.- Raymond
Heather is brilliant.- Former Client