Father’s Rights

by Mysti Dennis

Can my child’s mother keep my child from me? The answer is simple — unless you have a court order, yes, she can. Or at least that’s what you are told by the law enforcement agencies. Unless you have a court order that specifically designates what parental rights you have, you have none. Whether or not your child’s mother has the right to keep the child or children from you, has to do with what your court order says, if you have one.

Most times, in the midst of a domestic dispute, one parent or the other will call the police and say, “She won’t give me back my baby.” Police will say, “This is a domestic dispute and there is nothing we can do.” While it does not make sense that one parent can keep a child away from another, law enforcement officials can only enforce what they can see in writing. The fact that the two of you lived together or dated for a long period of time, or that you were there when the baby was born ultimately doesn’t mean anything. Even if you were, or currently are, married to the other parent, you have no rights that are superior to the other parent in regards to having possession to the child. And this may come as a surprise, but signing a birth certificate does not make you a father. Sorry, guys.

The only way you can establish your legal rights to make decisions and to have specific rights to possession of your children is by filing one of three documents with the court. The first is a Suit to Establish Paternity. This document is what you file if you were not married to the other parent and did not sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity at the time the child was born. The second action would be a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. This is what you would file if either you are married and separated from the other parent (but not ready to file for divorce), or if you were not married but did sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Finally, if you are married to the other parent, filing a Petition for Divorce is also an option for establishing your parental rights.

Determining which of these options is best suited for you can be determined by speaking with your trusted family law attorney at Bailey & Galyen. Don’t ever think there is nothing you can or need to do. Allow the law to help protect you and your family by establishing your paternal rights and preventing an angry parent from denying you access to your children.

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