At least 1 state considering bill boosting birth fathers' rights

In many states, including Utah, a birth father must prove paternity and then approach a court to establish legal rights to his child if he is not married to the mother. Failing to do so can result in the loss of any parental rights, including physical custody, if the mother decides she does not want the child. While there are some birth fathers who have no desire to be a part of their child's life, there are others who would gladly take on the responsibility and retain child custody.

At least one state is considering a bill that would present birth fathers with essentially the same rights as birth mothers. Those who oppose the bill say that giving birth fathers more rights could create problems. One central concern appears to be fathers who show no initial interest in their children but then turn up at some later point in time to demand custody and visitation rights. Another concern is that the bill may cause harm for victims of domestic violence.

However, advocates for the bill contend that children are less likely to get into trouble with a father in their life and that fathers should not have to use the courts to fight for access to their own children. Addressing the concern for absent fathers, the bill's sponsor points out that birth mothers can also behave in a likewise manner, turning the child over to the custody of the father and then coming back at a later time and demanding the child's return.

If the bill does pass, it could influence other states, including Utah, to take similar initiatives, providing fathers with a different level of parenting rights.

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