When parents are unmarried, do courts favor mothers?Posted March 2010. Filed under Parenting
Many single fathers think that they have an automatic right to spend as much time with their child as the mother does. As a rule, Ohio courts disagree.
That makes many unmarried fathers think the courts are biased in favor of mothers. Not so. When children begin life without two parents in the home, courts are biased in favor of primary caregivers— and the fact is, that’s usually the mother.
Why the caregiver bias? Courts have a duty to serve ‘the best interests of the child’– and one of the most important is stability.
Stability starts early, when an infant quickly bonds with and becomes attached to their primary caregiver. That’s the person who takes care of their needs, who understands their habits and preferences and fears. That’s the person they know they can count on.
That stability goes out the window when a child is suddenly uprooted to spend half their time with someone they have no relationship with— a father, for instance.
Does this leave unmarried dads out in the cold? No. But it strongly suggests that single fathers should establish their legal standing and begin to participate as committed parents very early in their child’s life. Here are the basics on how to get parental rights.
Single dads who wait many months or years to activate their parental rights have to be ready to go step by step.
A court is simply not going to order equal parenting time to any parent who has not established a caregiver relationship with a child. But it will start with an initial plan of visits, integrating the parent into his child’s life for a few hours at a time, usually three days a week. Frequency and regularity of contact are crucial.
As the parent-child relationship gets established, courts often expand contact to include overnights. The most important factor is the father’s ability to show that he understands and can take care of his child’s everyday needs on a regular basis.
The bottom line is this: Dont’ talk about it. Do it. Unmarried fathers can earn equal parental rights and responsibilities by doing what it takes for their children to recognize them as genuine caregivers. A court will usually follow suit and activate fathers’ full parenting rights.