Parents share a special bond with their children, and under Connecticut state family law parents have a legal right to a relationship with those children – additionally, children have the same right to a relationship with their parents. Court rulings across the country have traditionally seen the child’s mother gain custody during a divorce or other kind of Connecticut custody case, and courts have mostly sided with the mother in these types of situations. More modern court rulings have placed a higher emphasis on the child’s father, the rights that father has, and the impact his involvement has on his child’s life.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
While the child’s mother has most traditionally been viewed as the most important relationship in a child’s life and the child’s main provider, there have been some developmental studies showing the importance and impact a father has on a child’s life. Fathers who are involved, supportive, and affectionate toward a child have a positive impact on that child’s emotional development as well as the development of language and social skills. Additionally, studies have found that children with involved fathers are better adjusted and do better academically.
Establishing Paternity in Connecticut
For single dads or moms who are struggling with their child’s paternity, the law works to their benefit as well as the child’s and also helps to outline the responsibilities and rights of each parent. For mothers, knowing their child’s paternity can help put child support in place, and for fathers it could mean having a court order to secure time with their child. Regardless of the situation, the first step in this process is establishing who the child’s biological father is.
Establishing paternity is the legal means to determine who the child’s father is. When a married woman gives birth, it is assumed her husband is the child’s father. However, in cases where the mother is not married, her child’s paternity must be established – this can be done voluntarily or by court order. If a mother is unmarried when her child is born, she and the presumed father have the opportunity to sign what is known as a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” declaration. When both parents sign this form, they are both acknowledging that the man signing is the father.
This acknowledgment form becomes final and valid 60 days after it has been signed. Once this 60-day period has passed, neither parent can revoke acknowledgement. Once this form has been submitted to the court, a judge has the right to make any order related to the child, such as child support payments, proving of medical insurance, and orders that determine custody and any visitation rights that may be sought. It is important to note that either parent, the mother or the father, has the right to seek the help of child support services and request any of these orders.
In cases where a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity is not signed, either the mother or the presumed father has the right to request the court with help establishing paternity. Under state Connecticut law, any of the following individuals or agencies can petition the court to begin the paternity establishment process:
- The child’s mother
- Any man who believes he is the child’s father
- Any man who has been identified as the child’s father
- Town welfare administrator
- Connecticut Department of Social Services
When the child paternity case begins, should the child’s mother or the Department of Social Services begin proceedings, the family court for the county the mother and presumed father live in handles and decides the case. If the additional matter of terminating or ending parental rights of a child exists and a male believed to be the child’s father wants to file for paternity, the case is held in the county probate court for the county in which the child resides. Should the case begin before the child is born, the final hearing is not conducted until after the child is born.
Once the case has been decided, the judge ruling the case also has an opportunity to order the following:
- Child support payments
- Wage assignment
- Physical and legal custody of the child
- Health insurance coverage for the child
- Court appointed attorney for the presumed father should he be unable to afford one
During this process, the court requires the mother, presumed father, and child to submit to genetic testing to determine the child’s biological father. In order for the test to be considered valid, it needs to produce a 99 percent probability that the man in question is the child’s biological father. In cases where the state has begun paternity testing, the state pays for the test – in cases where an independent party began paternity testing, that individual pays for the genetic test.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Under state law in Connecticut both the mother and the father of a child have the legal right to seek custody of the child and/or visitation time with the child. When a child custody case begins both the mother and the father are treated equally and have equal rights. During the case the judge will use the “best interest of the child” standard in order to guide their decision making and place the child with the parent who is most capable and willing to care for them. While mothers have traditionally been granted custody of their child modern cases are seeing more and more fathers win primary custody.
Father’s Right to Child Support
Should custody cases rule the father be primary custodian, meaning the child lives with him the majority of the time, the father has the same right to seek child support payments from the mother as the mother would from the father in the opposite situation. Child support, paid by either the mother or the father, is a way for non-custodial parents to help financially support their child and help cover expenses including medical needs, educational costs, food, shelter, and clothing. The same resources used by mothers to collect these payments can be used by fathers.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
Although modern rulings have seen more fathers gain custody or deserved visitation with their child, there is still a belief that the child’s mother is the best possible caregiver. For those fathers who feel their parental rights are not being upheld and who want to ensure they get fair and equal treatment in court, they can seek the help and legal advice of a father’s rights attorney. These legal professionals are well versed in child custody rights as well as parental rights for the state of Connecticut and can often help to ensure a father is being treated fairly and getting the time with his child he deserves.