This is the next post in our series on the rights of unwed parents in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Our last article provided an overview of topics which this series will be addressing. It also stressed the need to speak with an attorney if you or a loved one are involved in a family law dispute. It is important that you contact counsel sooner, rather than later, due to the fact that the Court is more likely to view your current situation as acceptable if you wait to go to Court. In this article we will discuss a topic which often leads to a great deal of confusion – how our state views the rights of an unmarried father. If you need assistance then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
An unmarried Boston father will have rights equal to the mother’s as long as paternity has been established
Massachusetts is a state which presumes that mothers and fathers should have an equal influence in the child’s life. The Court will address legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves important decisions in a child’s life such as medical, educational and religious issues. Physical custody involves where the child resides and visitation, or parenting time, with the non-custodial parent. A father must have established paternity to gain legal or physical custody.
As long as paternity has been established, the Court will grant joint legal custody unless it is shown that such an arrangement is not in the best interests of the child. When deciding what is in the child’s best interests, the Court will consider factors such as the wishes of the child (assuming they are of sufficient age and maturity to make such a decision), the needs of the child, the ability of the parents to meet those needs, whether there is a history of violence between the parties, the need for the child to spend time with their siblings, and more.
Physical custody generally involves one parent being the primary custodian while the other parent has visitation or parenting time. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case, there is a wide range of possibilities with physical custody. Some parents will agree to split time equally, more common in the years before a child enters school, while other parents require the Court to establish who will have primary custody and what the visitation or parenting time schedule will be.
Custody can be a complex and difficult situation to resolve. Again, paternity must be established before a father will have any rights or obligations in regards to the child. If paternity has not been established, however, the dad will have no right to visitation with the child. He will also have no right to information such as school records, medical records, etc. Finally, without an establishment of paternity, the dad would not have legal authority to consent to medical care on behalf of his child. Conversely, a father will have no obligation to pay child support or to provide health insurance.
Unmarried Boston dads should obtain a child custody order as soon as possible
If you are an unmarried dad then it is generally advisable to gain a child custody order as soon as possible. This is true even if you are on good terms with the mother. Having an order will protect your interests in the event of a disagreement. Say, for example, that you do not have an order and that you have traditionally had the child every other week. If the mother decides to stop granting you your time with the child, and refuses to let your son or daughter come to your home, you would have no recourse. This is due to the fact that, again, the rights of a mom and a dad are equal. This means that, without an order, each parent has an equal right to the child and, conversely, is under no responsibility to turn them over. By having an order in place you can ensure that your interests will be protected in the event of a disagreement.
Our Boston child custody lawyers protect the rights of fathers and believe that everyone is entitled to their day in Court. Contact us today to speak with an attorney. We also assist Massachusetts residents in the Middlesex County cities of Cambridge, Lowell, Somerville, and Newton, as well as those in the cities of Worcester, Brockton, Quincy, and Lynn.