Children and their parents form a very strong and special bond as soon as those children are born. Parents are responsible for the care and upbringing of their child for the first several years of their lives, which is why maintaining that child/parent relationship is so important. Because of this, many states, including the state of Mississippi, have passed laws that help protect that relationship and ensure the child is being cared for and provided for. When Mississippi family law issues enter the court system, it is not uncommon for the mother’s role in a child’s life to take precedence, but fathers play very important roles as well.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have traditionally held the role of caregiver and nurturer for their children while fathers have traditionally been viewed as the ones who provide for their children. While we still see these roles in modern families, we have also seen an increased importance being placed on the important roles fathers play in their children’s upbringing and development. Studies have shown that children who have loving and involved fathers in their lives do better academically and tend to have an easier time with social development. Additionally, fathers are capable caregivers and disciplinarians for children.
Establishing Paternity in Mississippi
For fathers who wish to enforce their parental rights, an important step in this process is establishing the child’s paternity. The state of Mississippi has both a voluntary and involuntary process in which parents can establish a child’s paternity. Should the child’s mother be married when the child is conceived or become married any time before the child is born, the mother’s husband is considered the child’s father and is added to the child’s birth certificate. Additionally, a child is considered “legitimate” if the child’s parents get married before he or she is born.
While married parents do not have to take additional steps to establish paternity, the process is not as simple for unmarried parents. An unmarried couple with a child has an opportunity to voluntarily sign an acknowledgement of paternity form. When both parents have signed this form, the father’s name can then be added to the child’s birth certificate, and the child can also be given the father’s last name. An acknowledgement of paternity form can be signed by the parents at the hospital or after the child is born through the Department of Human Services.
The other way paternity can be established is through the involuntary process of going to court. This is considered involuntary since one party involved in the case is disputing paternity. In these cases, either the mother, the father, or the child (with the help of legal assistance) can petition the court to determine the child’s paternity. This is done by filing what is known as a paternity action. This process usually begins when the child’s father refuses to sign an acknowledge of paternity form or if the mother and father are not in agreement as to who the child’s father is.
Additionally, the Department of Human Services in the state of Mississippi can file a paternity action on behalf of the child in question. It is important to note that a paternity action case cannot be settled until the child has been born, and often genetic testing is ordered for the father, mother, and child in order to determine who the child’s biological father is. Those seeking to begin a paternity action need to file their case with the court that governs the county in which the father, mother, or child lives. Following the proper legal process is important for a quick and easy paternity case.
Why is Establishing Paternity Important?
Establishing paternity is important when it comes to Mississippi fathers enforcing their parental rights, but there are also some other compelling reasons why establishing paternity is beneficial. First, establishing paternity allows a child born out of wedlock to have the rights and financial support that are given to children born into marriage. After paternity is established, the child’s father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate, and the question of the father’s identity is resolved. Additionally, establishing paternity allows both parents to seek custody and child support for their child.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation in Mississippi
After the child’s paternity has been established, both parents can begin the process of establishing MS child custody and seeking child support. In the state of Mississippi, a judge who is making a custody determination follows the “best interests of the child” standard. State law also dictates that the child’s best interests include keeping contact with both parents to help foster a close relationship that is beneficial to the child’s overall wellbeing. An exception to this law can be made if a parent has shown signs of violence toward the child or other household members or has caused physical injury.
In order to make a decision regarding child custody, the judge takes a number of factors relating to parenting into consideration in an attempt to provide the child with the best possible arrangement. Some of the factors judges consider include but are not limited to:
- The child’s development needs
- The child’s physical needs
- Emotional ties between each parent and the child
- Each parent’s ability, skill, and desire to provide care for the child
- The stability of each parent’s employment and living situation
- Each parent’s health and age
- The child’s health and age
In Mississippi, there is no requirement for judges to award each factor equal weight – depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, some of the considered factors may carry more weight than others. For example, the judge may find that one or two factors are the most important to the case and the child’s wellbeing, and those factors may ultimately determine the outcome.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Mississippi
Depending on the judge’s final custody decision, it is possible for the child’s father to be named the primary custodial parent, which means the father has the child residing with him and in his care for the majority of the time. Primary custodial parents have a right to seek child support from the non-custodial parent to help cover the expenses of caring for the child, such as shelter, clothing, food, medical expenses, and educational expenses. Fathers who have primary custody of their child have the same right to seek child support as mothers would in the same situation. Additionally, they can seek the assistance of the Mississippi Division of Child Support Enforcement if help collecting support is needed.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
For fathers who are facing paternity issues, child custody hearings, or child support issues and need assistance, they can seek the legal help of a family law attorney who specializes in father’s rights. These legal professionals are well versed in Mississippi family law and are able to help their client through legal proceedings and also ensure their parental rights are honored in court.