When children are born, they naturally form an automatic, strong, and loving bond with their parents. This bond is an important one for both the children and the parents, which is why so many states have created laws to help govern and protect that relationship. Important Louisiana family law issues are, more often than not, resolved within a state’s court system, especially when a child’s parents are ending their relationship in divorce or otherwise. When it comes to parental rights, a Louisiana father’s right to custody and visitation is equal to that of a child’s mother, whether the father is aware of these rights or not.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have always been regarded as the most important relationship in a child’s life – the mother carried the child within her body, worked to bring the child into the world, and often acts as the child’s primary caregiver. While it may seem like a mother’s love is all a child needs, fathers also play an important role in children’s lives. Fathers are equally capable caregivers, and they also act as effective disciplinarians for children, which is key to their social development. Additionally, research has shown that children with involved fathers in their lives tend to do better academically.
Establishing Paternity in Louisiana
When a couple is going through a custody dispute in the Louisiana court system, one of the most important aspects of their case is proving the child’s paternity. Couples who are or were married when their child was born do not have to take any further action to prove who the child’s father is – Louisiana state law assumes the mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father. However, for unmarried couples, the process of establishing paternity becomes more difficult. In this state, there are two methods in which unmarried couples can establish the child’s paternity.
The first way unmarried parents can establish paternity is through an Affidavit of Acknowledgement. This is a voluntary process in which both parents sign a written affidavit, which acknowledges the male signing the form is the child in question’s legal and biological father. If there is any doubt about who the child’s father is, neither party should sign this form, as it solidifies the child’s paternity in the eyes of the law. When an unmarried couple goes to a hospital or another medical facility to have their child, the facility staff presents them with the Affidavit of Acknowledgement.
Should these forms be completed at the hospital by both parents, their names are added to the child’s birth certificate, which makes the male the child’s legally bound father. In addition to agreeing this man is the child’s father, this form also acknowledges that the man is responsible for paying child support and the child has the right to inherit assets from the man as well. Again, should either party be unsure about signing the Affidavit of Acknowledgement, they should not do so – if later on they decide this is the best course of action, the form can be signed at that time.
The second way for unmarried parents to establish paternity is through taking the issues to court and having a judge make the final decision on who the child’s biological and legal father is. To begin this process, one of the following individuals needs to submit a paternity action, which can be submitted by the child’s mother, the child’s presumed father, any man who is named the child’s father, the child him or herself with legal representation, a government lawyer, or an agent for the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services Child Support Enforcement (CSE).
If at any time anyone involved in the case requests genetic testing, the court moves to order the testing be completed. Additionally, the child and his or her mother and presumed father are ordered to submit to this testing. After reviewing the evidence, the judge overseeing the case makes a final decision as to whether or not the male in question is indeed the child’s legal and biological father. Should the judge determine he is, the court issues a final paternity judgement on the matter, and the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate. At this time, the judge also has the option to order child support and arrange a custody and visitation agreement for the child and the parents.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Like many other states across the country, the state of Louisiana uses the “best interests of the child” standard in order to guide its decision making when it comes to Louisiana child custody cases. Under this standard, judges are ordered to agree to or create a custody arrangement that most benefits the children involved, best supporting their mental, emotional, and physical needs. Under state law, both mothers and fathers are treated equally during child custody cases, so if it is within the child’s best interest to primarily reside with the father, that is the custody agreement the judge orders.
Some of the factors the judge considers when making this decision includes:
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- The relationship between the child and any siblings residing in the parents’ households
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s ability to provide shelter, clothing, and food for the child
- The child’s involvement in school, extracurricular activities, and the community
Father’s Right to Child Support in Louisiana
In cases where one parent is awarded primary custody of a child, it is not uncommon for the other parent, known as the non-custodial parent, to be ordered to pay child support. Child support is financial support the non-custodial parent provides to help pay for the child’s basic needs including shelter, clothing, food, schooling, and medical care. Fathers who are granted primary custody of a child have the same right to collect child support as mothers would in the same situation. Additionally, fathers have the same access to child support enforcement services and support as mothers do.
The amount a parent receives in child support is based on a number of different factors. The main factors controlling this amount include the number of children, the income levels of both the primary custodial parent and the non-custodial parent, and what the current custody arrangement is. Most child support cases see a minimum of a $100 monthly child support payment from the non-custodial parent, and in cases where the parents have joint or split physical custody, these payments could be even less depending on the parents’ incomes.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
While the written law makes it clear fathers have an equal right to a relationship, custody, and child support, fathers are often unaware of what their parental rights are. A lawyer who specializes in fathers’ rights and family law in the state of Louisiana can be an invaluable resource for men facing the legal system in reference to their child or children. These legal professionals can explain fathers’ rights and how the law applies to their case, helping to ensure a more positive outcome.