Historically, fathers have encountered challenges in receiving equitable treatment within Washington state family courts. Nevertheless, a proficient fathers’ rights attorney in Bellevue possesses the expertise to safeguard your legal entitlements. Take proactive steps to uphold your rights and foster positive parent-child bonds by seeking legal counsel promptly. Initiate a conversation about your situation with a skilled Bellevue family lawyer today.
Our Bellevue child custody lawyers are committed to helping dads preserve and assert their legal rights. Learn more about the history of fathers’ parenting rights and how one of our experienced attorneys can protect you in child custody disputes.
Contact our law firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
The History of Fathers’ Rights
Child custody law has an ugly history in American jurisprudence. In the early days of American law, children were treated as the property of marriage, and a man was entitled to this property upon divorce. Eventually, this cold approach was rejected in favor of another that was equally wrong.
By the early 20th century, many people thought only a mother could provide the nurturing affection a young child needs. This created a doctrine known as the tender years presumption in the courts. By this reasoning, many judges would award custody of young children to their mothers by default.
However, both approaches were flawed because they made presumptions about a parent’s ability to care for their children based on gender stereotypes.
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How the Law Protects Fathers Today
Today, the law clearly states neither parent is given preference in custody matters due to their gender. The family court must consider what is in the child’s best interest. A parent’s gender should not affect these “best interests” determinations.
Because of this, fathers can enjoy equal parenting time and jointly make legal decisions unless the other parent can prove that this is not in the child’s best interest.
If a parent wants to challenge custody, they must provide solid evidence that the other parent is unfit. This evidence must be based on concrete factors that could impact the child’s well-being, such as neglect, abuse, substance abuse, or instability, and not merely on the parent’s gender.
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Divorce and Child Custody
In a divorce proceeding involving minor children, the final divorce decree will include provisions regarding child custody.
The decree will outline which parent gets physical and legal custody and provide details about visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. The goal is to structure these arrangements in a way that serves the best interest of the child or children involved.
A child custody and divorce attorney will know how to negotiate the challenges of this situation and help you do what is in the best interest of your children.
Furthermore, an experienced family law attorney will have creative solutions that parents can agree on. This is the benefit of hiring a custody lawyer who has represented fathers under challenging circumstances.
Though unfortunately, parents amid a divorce often disagree. In this situation, you and your lawyer might need to present your custody issues to a judge in Bellevue and let the family court decide what is best for your kids.
Orders Related to Legal Separation and Custody
A family court can also give custody orders when the parents are legally separating but not getting divorced. These court orders can help you understand your role during a legal separation.
With court orders or parenting agreements, parents are less likely to argue about drop-offs and pick-ups, where the kids go to school, and other common issues.
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Never Married Couples and Custody
If you and the child’s mother were never legally married, custody issues are resolved similarly. For example, the court will issue parenting orders to maintain consistency in your children’s lives.
Establishing paternity is a necessary first step in child custody cases involving unmarried parents. This is because legal rights and responsibilities, such as custody and child support, hinge on whether someone is legally recognized as a child’s parent.
Once paternity has been established, the court must set a parenting schedule and decide whether you or the child’s mother can make legal decisions on your child’s or children’s behalf.
What a Bellevue Family Lawyer Can Do to Protect Your Parental Rights
So what an experienced paternity lawyer do to protect your rights in a King County Family Court? Because many of your parenting goals can be challenged in a Washington child custody case, your attorney’s strategy will depend on how best to prove your custody proposals are in your child’s best interests.
In some cases, paternity is presumed by law. For example:
- A married man is presumed to be the father if his wife has a baby; however, this presumption can be challenged with DNA evidence pointing to another man being the biological father.
- Including the father’s name on the birth certificate also creates a rebuttable presumption of paternity. That means it can be accepted as evidence of paternity but can also be disputed and potentially overturned in court.
If paternity isn’t established through these presumptions, it may need to be proven in court, often through a DNA paternity test.
Once paternity is established, the father has the same rights and responsibilities as a father in a marital relationship, which includes the potential for custody and visitation rights and the responsibility for child support.
An adoption order is another way paternity can be established. When a person adopts a child, they become their legal parent with all the associated rights and responsibilities, regardless of biological relation.
An experienced father’s rights lawyer can help you find the right strategy for any problems you face in proving that you are the child’s legal father.
Securing Adequate Parenting Time
One of a father’s most important parenting rights is parenting time, also called visitation. It allows them to maintain and build a healthy, consistent, and meaningful relationship with their children.
Consistent interaction through scheduled parenting time helps foster a sense of security in children and ensures they can benefit from both parents’ emotional and psychological support.
When these visitation rights are restricted or denied, it can have a detrimental impact on the relationship between a father and his child. It can lead to feelings of estrangement and could affect the child’s emotional well-being.
Under the law, a mother doesn’t have the right to unilaterally restrict a father’s access to his children, especially when legal custody or visitation rights have been established.
Child Possession and Access Orders
If the parents cannot agree on a schedule for parenting time, the court can order “child possession and access orders.”
These orders set a schedule for parenting time. The court does not give preference to either parent’s schedule. Instead, the access order must be made in the children’s best interest.
The right to make legal decisions on behalf of your child has far-reaching consequences. School, religion, medical care, and other critical decisions will greatly impact your child’s future. Fathers should have a say in these decisions throughout the child’s life.
Many parents agree to make these decisions together. This arrangement is called a “joint conservatorship,” meaning the parents must make these important decisions together. Neither parent can unilaterally decide; if the parents cannot agree, they must find a way to make the final decision.
If one parent wants the ability to make decisions without the other, they must prove to the court that joint conservatorship would not be in the child’s best interests.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Fathers’ Rights Lawyer in Bellevue, WA
Too often, fathers do not receive the parenting time they deserve. This can occur for various reasons, including biases, misinterpretations of the law, or conflicts between the parents.
The Bellevue Fathers’ Rights lawyers at Aberdeen Family Law know how vital it is for you to spend quality time with your children. We understand that gender should not be a deciding factor in determining the best interest of your children. That’s why we are committed to fighting against any form of gender discrimination in your child custody case.
We have helped many fathers protect their rights to parenting time and legal decision-making to maintain healthy relationships with their children. From child custody to alimony, our fathers’ rights attorneys in Bellevue can ensure fair representation in court.
Contact our law office today to schedule your initial consultation.