Berman & Asbel, LLP

Pennsylvania Fathers: Protect Your Rights

Historically, fathers have been considered secondary caregivers, more likely to be breadwinners than to stay at home with the kids. Times have changed. According to this report from Pew Research Center, the number of fathers who are sole breadwinners has decreased from 47 percent to 27 percent since 1970. Fathers today spend triple the amount of time on childcare than they did in 1965. In addition, more couples are deciding not to marry, which has meant more unwed fathers.

This overall shift has created issues for fathers in a few different areas of family law:

1. Establishing Paternity

Unmarried fathers must establish paternity or risk losing their parental rights. It doesn't matter how long you have lived with the mother or how involved you are in your child's life. To be a legal parent and have the same rights as a married father, you must do one of two things:

  • Complete a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and file it with the Department of Public Welfare. Your child's mother will also need to sign the form.
  • File a Complaint to Establish Paternity, which may include DNA testing. This is often done in order to establish paternity during child support or child custody proceedings.

2. Fighting for Custody

Fathers no longer have to prove that their child's mother is an unfit parent in order to obtain custody, but they still face an uphill battle.

Forty-five percent of Americans believe that fathers and mothers care for their newborns equally as well, but only 1 percent believe fathers can do a better job than mothers. The perception that women are better caregivers is waning but still prevalent. Men often have to fight for the same considerations mothers get when it comes to child custody, even though many of these fathers have taken an active role in raising their children.

3. Seeking Support

Men are spending considerably more time with their children than they were a generation ago. They are increasingly in a position to need support when serving as a child's custodial parent. Because this is traditionally seen as a mother's issue, men are often hesitant to seek support or are unsure of their rights.

Fathers: Protect Your Rights. Seek Legal Guidance.

These statistics and trends paint a picture of fatherhood that looks very different than it did 50 years ago. It remains crucial for fathers to have support during child custody, paternity and other legal processes that might affect their parental rights.

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