When children are brought into the world, the first people they make a connection with are their parents. The bond children and their parents share is a strong and special one, which is why states across the country have laws that work to protect and honor this connection. However, when a family dissolves and parents no longer want to be together, the fate of children and how their relationship with their parents continues is often left in the hands of the Maine family law court system. Maine Child custody and child support are big issues that judges must deal with, not to mention the rights of the child and his or her parents.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
When it comes to difficult decisions about Maine child custody, it was once not uncommon for a child’s mother to receive full custody in almost cases. While mothers have a very special bond with their children and are effective caregivers, fathers also play an important role in their child’s care and upbringing. Fathers are just as capable of caring for a child as a mother is, and fathers also play a critical role when it comes to a child’s development. Studies have shown that children with loving, involved fathers in their lives often develop better social skills and also perform better academically.
Establishing Paternity in Maine
When it comes to upholding a father’s parental rights in court, the first step in doing this effectively is establishing the child’s paternity. In most cases, when the child’s parents are married, it is assumed the mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father. However, when the parents are unmarried or the child’s paternity is in question, it becomes unclear in the eyes of the law who the child’s legal and biological father is. In the state of Maine, there are two main ways in which fathers can establish themselves as the child’s legal and biological parent.
The first and easiest way to establish paternity in the state of Maine is through an Acknowledgement of Paternity form (AOP). Signing an AOP is a completely voluntary process for both parents and should be signed when both parents are absolutely sure of their decision. When a child of unwed parents is born at a hospital or another medical facility, the facility’s staff provides the parents with the AOP form and explains the process to them. The AOP form is a sworn statement and must be signed by both the mother and the father in the presence of a notary public.
By completing the AOP form, both parents are acknowledging the male who signed the form is the child’s legal and biological father. In addition to establishing the child’s paternity, this form also sets the stage for fathers to agree to pay child support, medical support, and the costs associated with the child’s birth should they be ordered to do so in the future. While signing an AOP does establish the child’s legal and biological father, it does not give that father automatic rights to custody or visitation with the child should the parents take those issues to family court.
The second and more difficult way to establish paternity in the state of Maine is through a court order. A paternity action can be filed with the court by the child’s mother, the child his or herself with the help of legal representation, the child’s presumed father, or any male who has been named the child’s father. Additionally, the Maine Office for Family Independence, Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) can also bring a paternity action before the court. This organization gets involved in the case should the child receive public assistance of any kind.
Should the case fall to the DSER, it is very likely the issue is not taken to court – DSER has administrative mechanisms that assist it with establishing paternity as well as ensuring child support is ordered and paid. More complex cases are often assigned to the Assistant Attorney General from the Office of the Maine Attorney General, who takes the case to family court. Parties involved in a paternity case can settle their issue at any time, or they have the option to go to trial and have a family court judge hear and decide on the issues at hand.
Should the paternity case go to court, the judge makes a determination on if the male in question is the child’s father. Should the judge determine the male is the child’s father, a paternity judgement is issued naming the male both the child’s legal and biological father, which means paternity has been formally established at the conclusion of the case. At the time, the judge can also order the assessment of financial obligations, such as child support and medical support, and also make critical decisions regarding custody, residence, and visitation between the child and both parents.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
When judges are making decisions regarding the custody and visitation of children and their parents respectively, they follow Maine’s “best interest of the child” standard to make their final judgement. The “best interests of the child” standard outlines that decisions regarding child custody and visitation need to be made in a manner that supports children’s best interests including their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Mothers and fathers are considered equal when the case begins, and the judge places the child with whichever parent he or she feels is the best caregiver.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Maine
In those cases, where the father is granted primary physical custody of the child, meaning the child resides with him the majority of the time, it is very likely the child’s mother is ordered to pay child support. Fathers with primary custody of their children have the same right to collect child support for helping to raise those children as mothers would in the same situation. Additionally, fathers also have equal access to the government’s support services regarding the enforcement of child support payments, specifically through the Division of Support Enforcement.
How a Maine Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
While it is clear fathers have the same right to time and a relationship with their children as mothers do, fathers can sometimes have a hard time expressing or defending these rights. For those who are facing a child custody case and are unsure what their enforceable rights are, a father’s rights lawyer specializing in family law in the state of Maine can be an invaluable resource. These legal professionals can help explain a father’s rights while also helping build a strong case. Additionally, the lawyer ensures the father’s rights are being upheld and that he gets a fair trial.