When children are born, they begin to create a bond with their parents. State governments like Indiana’s understand the importance of this relationship and have created laws to help protect children, parents, and the relationship they have. However, when parents divorce or decide to no longer be together, it is not uncommon for them to turn to the court system to help them with decisions regarding child custody and child support. Traditional Indiana family law court rulings have seen mothers awarded custody of their children more often than fathers, but the importance of fathers has gained new ground.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
There has been much research conducted on the bond mothers share with their children and how important this connection is. This is often due to the fact of mothers carrying the child from conception to birth. While the relationship mothers have with their children is important, a father’s role in the child’s life is equally important for a number of reasons. Children with involved fathers have shown to do better academically and also have an easier time developing their social and language skills. Additionally, fathers serve as caregivers, supporters, and disciplinarians for children as well.
Establishing Paternity in Indiana
When fathers are looking to enforce their parental rights, it is important for them to establish the child’s paternity in Indiana. In the state of Indiana, there are two ways in which mothers and fathers can establish a child’s paternity: signing a paternity affidavit or by adjunction. The simplest way to establish paternity is by voluntarily signing a paternity affidavit – this form is presented to unmarried parents at the hospital after their child is born. By signing this document, the alleged father agrees to take on responsibility of the child and establishes himself as the child’s biological and legal father.
While a paternity affidavit is a voluntary process, paternity can also be established using an adjunction, which is an involuntary process. An adjunction is when a judge makes a decision about a child’s paternity, and this process is started by submitting a paternity action to the court. This action can be started by the child’s mother, any male who believes his is the child’s father, any male named as the child’s father, the child him or herself with legal representation, and/or the county prosecutor. When the trial concludes, the judge determines the child’s biological and legal father.
Aside from establishing the child’s father and fathers being able to enforce their parental rights, there are a number of other reasons why paternity should be established for a child. Some of these reasons include exposing the child to both parents and both sides of their family, allowing the child and each parent to establish a strong bond, the child’s birth certificate including both parents’ names, and the parents having the opportunity to work together to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as medical care and educational needs.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Child custody in Indiana is another family court issue parents sometimes have to deal with, especially if they are unmarried or no longer in a relationship. Often times, fathers believe the court will side with mothers regardless of the evidence, and often they do not pursue their right to custody because they feel there is no way to “win.” The truth is family courts in Indiana and across the country use the “best interests of the child” standard to make decisions, and this standard does not favor mothers for custody over fathers – it favors the best decision for the child.
Judges overseeing child custody cases look at relevant factors when it comes to making final decisions. Some of the factors they consider early in cases are the child’s gender and age as well as the relationship the child has with each parent as well as grandparents and siblings. While the child’s gender is something judges consider, it is important to note the court does not make presumptions about either parent’s gender that would provide an advantage – for example, mothers are not favored to gain custody of daughters or fathers gaining custody of sons.
Judges also look at lifestyle factors when making custody decisions. They consider how children will adjust to changes in their life based on the decision, such as changes to their home, community, and school. Additionally, the child’s and both parents’ mental and physical health is considered in the decision making process as well as the ability and willingness of each parent to take on the responsibilities of caring for and supporting the child. The factors listed here are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many factors and circumstances judges consider.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Indiana
The child custody case can end a few ways – one parent can be named primary custodian and the other a non-custodian with liberal visitation, one parent can be named primary custodian and the other a non-custodian with limited or supervised visitation, or the parents can be ordered to share custody. In cases where one parent is named primary custodian, the non-custodial parent is frequently ordered to pay child support. Child support is financial payments made by one parent as a means to help pay for the child’s expenses, such as shelter, clothing, and food.
Regardless of which parent is named primary custodian, the mother or the father, they both have equal right to seek child support to help financially support and care for the child. Child support payments are calculated by the court using a number of different criteria including health insurance premiums, child care expenses, both parents’ incomes, any alimony payments, and a number of other figures. Once this payment is calculated, usually as a monthly payment, the judge orders the non-custodial parent to pay this amount to the custodial parent to use for the child.
Should fathers be named primary custodian and granted child support payments, they have the same rights as mothers to collect payments and enforce payments should they become delinquent. When this is the case, fathers should seek the help of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) – this entity was established for the sole purpose of enforcing federal and state laws that govern child support. Additionally, DCS also establishes and modifies child support and establishes paternity.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
Fathers are often intimidated by the family court system, given its track record for generally awarding custody and other rights to mothers. For those fathers who have questions or need assistance with their child custody, paternity, or child support case, an attorney specializing in fathers’ rights can be an invaluable resource. These professionals can help fathers gain favorable court decisions and also help them better understand their rights and responsibilities under Indiana state law.