Parents and their children share a strong and special bond, and this relationship has served as the basis of many family and child laws across the country including the state of Idaho. Not only do these laws protect the rights of both the parents and the children, they also protect families from having the government step in when it is not necessary. Mothers have always been viewed as the primary caregivers and nurturers of children, which is why traditional court rulings have seen custody cases rule in the favor of mothers – more modern court rulings, however, have seen an increased importance placed on father’s rights and the important roles they play in the lives of their children.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Although a mother has been most traditionally regarded as the most important person in a child’s life, acting as the primary caregiver, supporter, and nurturer, fathers also play an important role in the growth and development of children. Fathers have the ability to be capable caregivers, supporters, and nurturers while also having the capability of being effective disciplinarians for children as well. Studies have also shown that fathers play a major role in the educational and social development of children and that involved and loving fathers also have an impact on a child’s language development.
Establishing Paternity in Idaho
Under Idaho state law, married couples who have a child together are generally assumed to be that child’s biological and legal parents. In these cases, both the child and the parents get to take advantage of the custodial and financial benefits of parentage without having to take any extra steps or go to court to establish the child’s paternity. When unmarried couples have a child together, however, the process becomes more complicated – specifically, the child’s and the parents’ rights do not automatically become defined without further legal action on the parents’ part.
Unmarried parents who have a child need to work with the legal system to help protect the child and themselves and specifically have the child’s legal and biological father defined. Should the parents fail to take action in these areas, they likely are not able to take advantage of the legal protections offered to biological and legal parents. One of the most important actions parents need to take is establishing the child’s paternity and making sure the child’s biological father is also named the legal father.
In the state of Idaho, there are two methods unmarried parents can use to establish the child’s paternity. First, the parents have the option to sign an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” form – this is a voluntarily acknowledgement of who the child’s legal father is and often times the parents have the opportunity to sign this document at the hospital after the child is born. Once this form has been signed, with a hospital staff member present, a copy of the form along with the child’s birth certificate is filed with the Office of Vital Statistics – this is performed at no cost to the parents.
The second option for establishing paternity in the state of Idaho is by filing a paternity action with the court system. Either the father, mother, or a government official, usually from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Child Support Services program, can file a paternity action. Whichever individual begins the court action is the plaintiff, and he or she needs to serve and file a “Verified Complaint for Paternity” and allege which male he or she believes to be the child’s biological father. From here, the judge decides who the child’s legal and biological father is, either by using evidence presented to the court or by ordering the father, mother, and child to submit to genetic testing.
There are a number of reasons why a mother and especially a father should take an interest in establishing their child’s paternity. First, having a legal father listed on the child’s birth certificate offers that child the opportunity to take advantage of a number of financial and other services. Additionally, fathers can better enforce their parental rights to custody and visitation while also ensuring their child is financially secure throughout his or her life.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Once a child’s paternity has been established, it is not uncommon for parents to begin a child custody case. Judges who oversee custody cases use the “best interests of the child” standard to guide their decision making and create the best possible living situation for the child regardless of either parent’s wishes. Under Idaho state law, when parents cannot agree on their own arrangement, judges make the decision for them by awarding both physical and legal custody either as sole or joint custody.
When the custody case begins, the child’s mother and father are regarded equally, and the judge considers factors, such as the following, when making a final custody decision:
- Both parents’ desires for custody
- The child’s desires for custody
- The relationship the child has with each parent
- Both parents’ housing and employment situations
- Both parents’ ability to meet the child’s physical, mental, and daily living needs
- Both parents’ relative fitness to care for the child
- The need for stability in the child’s life
Should fathers be considered better candidates for custody of the child based on these standards, it is completely possible for them to gain sole physical and legal custody of the child.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Idaho
In cases where one parent is named primary custodian and the other parent named the non-custodial parent, it is not uncommon for the non-custodial parent to be awarded visitation as well as ordered by the judge to pay child support. Child support is financial support provided to the custodial parent as a means to lessen the costs of raising a child – these payments are meant to help pay for food, clothing, and shelter while helping to also pay the child’s medical and educational expenses and overall needs.
When fathers are named primary custodian, they have a right to child support from mothers just as mothers would from fathers should they have been named primary custodian. Should fathers have difficulty collecting ordered child support from mothers, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has a department dedicated to providing support for child support orders including the enforcement of payment. Any parent, including fathers, have a right to work with this agency to ensure the ordered payments of child support by the court are upheld.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
When fathers are having difficulty enforcing their rights when it comes to Idaho child custody or child support, they can seek the legal advice and guidance of a lawyer who specializes in father’s rights and family law. These attorneys are able to guide fathers into making the best decisions for themselves and their child and also ensure that fathers’ rights are honored during the court proceedings.