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A few things to think about for dads in the family law context

Fathers of children in Georgia and elsewhere sometimes say that they are both bewildered and more than a bit daunted by family law and most things associated with it. Dads and advocates for fathers’ rights frequently state that the system seems stacked against them, with judges serving for the most part as umpires overseeing an unfair game.

Whatever the ultimate reality might be for most fathers, that perception remains a constant for many of them in their challenges and disputes. That is true regardless of whether the issue is visitation and custody, child support, spousal maintenance or some other matter.

Divorce attorney and family law commentator Yvette Harrell points out that many men have for decades simply tried to figure things out on their own, essentially winging it in court. She says that such a strategy, especially when it is employed by unwed fathers, is “usually in vain” and that, understandably, “there is no substitute for competent legal counsel.”

Harrell notes a number of things that unmarried dads often do not understand or appreciate. She labels them "need to know" items that can be of central importance regarding children-related legal issues.

One of those things concerns paternity. Some men erroneously believe that their signature on a child's birth certificate automatically establishes their full panoply of parental rights. In fact, and if a man is unwed, paternity must be adjudicated and a court order must issue.

Establishing paternity has a significant impact on other important aspects of parenthood, including visitation /custody rights and child support determinations.

Harrell also counsels that paying child support does not by itself foster any custody rights. Support and custody are two distinct considerations, with many extant examples of fathers paying support who have no legal rights to spend time with their children. Again, a court order must be issued to convey visitation and custody rights.

Family law, especially in the context of divorce, can involve myriad and complex considerations that have special significance for men. A proven family law attorney with comprehensive experience in the area can answer questions and provide diligent representation.

Source: ABC Action News, "Five important things that unwed fathers need to know," Yvette Harrell, Oct. 8, 2013

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