Although the law is written so that it does not discriminate between fathers and mothers, many fathers still feel like they face an uphill battle when it comes to issues of child custody and child support. The Philadelphia fathers’ rights lawyers at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices represent parents who are trying to get or keep custody of their children, parents who are paying child support and want child support reduced, those accused of failing to pay child support, and others seeking assistance with their family-related legal cases. The following guidelines may be helpful for fathers facing legal battles in Pennsylvania:
Child Custody and Support Rules for Fathers
These laws highlight some of the things fathers should know about their parental rights, fathers’ rights, and their legal options. Not all of these rules apply in every situation, and many “rights” can be taken away by a court of law. If you need help on any family law matters, always make sure to talk to an attorney.
Mothers and Fathers are Equal Under the Law
It is generally illegal for the law or the courts to discriminate on the basis of sex or gender, unless there is a good reason based on the biological differences. For instance, there is no expectation under the law that a mother should get custody instead of a father. This means that you should be set on equal footing against the mother of your children if a custody issue arises. The only times that discrimination is allowed is when it deals with biological differences. For instance, in paternity suits, it is much more difficult to prove the father’s biological relation than it is to prove the mother’s. Since the mother actually gave birth to the child, the court does not need additional proof that the mother is the biological parent, but may legally require DNA tests or other information to prove paternity.
There are Different Types of Custody
Many fathers fear that their children will be taken away from them, but may not fully understand the nuances of child custody laws in Pennsylvania. First, there are two general types of custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the legal right to care for and access your children. Every parent automatically has legal custody of their own children if they are listed on the birth certificate or follow other procedures. Physical custody refers to situations where the children are actually with you, or living in your house. If the parents live together, they share physical custody – but if they live apart, one parent usually gets custody for more than half the year. That parent is called the “custodial parent,” but the other parent still has the legal right to access their children and make decisions in their lives if they have legal custody.
You Cannot Lose Legal Custody without Going to Court
If you are involved in allegations of substance abuse, crime, or abuse, the mother of your children may attempt to have you stripped of custody rights. However, courts will not typically remove custody without giving you “due process” – notice of the hearing and an opportunity to be heard. If you have been outside your children’s lives for a long time and the court cannot find you, they may strip you of custody without notice. However, when you are involved in your children’s lives, courts must notify you of custody proceedings against you and give you a chance to appear in court with an attorney, and fight to keep your children.
Child Support Can be Modified
Many fathers pay child support in the amount that was ordered when their children were very young, and never seek to update or modify the child support order. Any time that either parent goes through a “material and substantial change in circumstances,” either side may be entitled to ask the court to modify or terminate the child support order. This can include changes, such as:
- New jobs,
- Losing a job,
- Changes in healthcare expenses,
- Changes in rent,
- Additional children (or stepchildren) to support,
- A child turning 18 and graduating from high school, or
- Discoveries regarding paternity.
However, you should always talk to an attorney and go to court before changing your child support payments. Resorting to self-help by refusing to pay in full could mean wage garnishment or other penalties.
Relocating Your Children May be Stopped
If the mother of your children wants to move out of state or far away with your children, you may be entitled to ask a court to stop her. PA law requires either consent or court approval before a substantial relocation. If you object to the relocation, a court can temporarily or permanently stop the relocation, if it is justified in doing so.
Philadelphia Fathers’ Rights Attorneys
The Philadelphia family lawyers at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices can help you exert your parental rights, fight for custody of your children, and work to reduce child support payments where appropriate. For a free consultation on your case, contact our family law offices today at 215-625-0851.